What is an e – Portfolio?

An ePortfolio (electronic portfolio) is an electronic collection of evidence that shows your learning journey over time. Portfolios can relate to specific academic fields or your lifelong learning. Evidence may include writing samples, photos, videos, research projects, observations by mentors and peers, and/or reflective thinking. The key aspect of an eportfolio is your reflection on the evidence, such as why it was chosen and what you learned from the process of developing your eportfolio. (Adapted from Philippa Butler’s “Review of the Literature on Portfolios and Eportfolios” (2006), page 2.)

An ePortfolio is not a specific software package, but more a combination of process (a series of activities) and product (the end result of the ePortfolio process). Presentation portfolios can be created using a variety of tools, both computer desktop tools and online (Barrett, 2000; Barrett, 2004-2008). Most commercial ePortfolio tools are focused on the product (right-hand) side of the diagram below, although some open source tools contain some of the Web 2.0-type tools that enhance the process (left-hand) side of the diagram, such as blogs, social networking, and RSS feeds.

The real value of an e-portfolio is in the reflection and learning that is documented therein, not just the collection of work.

” The overarching purpose of portfolios is to create a sense of personal ownership over one’s accomplishments, because ownership engenders feelings of pride, responsibility, and dedication.” (p.10) – Paris & Ayres.(1994) .

” The e-portfolio is the central .and common point for the student experience. It is a reflection of the student as a person undergoing continuous personal development, .not just a store of evidence.”.. (Geoff Rebbeck, e-Learning Coordinator, Thanet College, quoted in JISC, 2008)

As stated by Lorenzo & Ittelson (2005) when describing the many uses of e-portfolio’s, three broad categories emerge: student e-portfolio’s, teaching e-portfolio’s and institutional e-portfolio’s. During this i-Reflect paper the platform we will be undertaking will be a student e-portfolio.

“A student e-portfolio can be used to showcase accomplishments. I t may be shared with a prospective employer or used to document specific learning outcomes in a course and can include description, rationale and discussion of digitalized artifacts, resulting in a powerful tool for representation, reflection and revision (Lorenzo & Ittelson, para. 7, 2005)”.

Approaches to Reflection and Reflective Practices


Whitehead and Mason in their Study Skills for Students (2003) suggest some activities a student might engage in to achieve more
effective reflective practice.
-develop self
-awareness by taking time to consider and understand
your own thoughts and actions
-reflect on critical events on a regular basis, so that it becomes
integral to your thinking
-practice new clinical skills and apply methods of reflection to
develop your leaning experience
-spend time with your mentor to work towards learning being a joint
-gain new knowledge of reflective practice through reading,
attending seminar and conferences
-learn from feedback from supervisor
-address particular challenges which may arise through discussions
and tutorials
-discuss informally the experiences of reflective practice with fellow


So the basic skill involved in reflection is to develop self awareness based on attending to feelings and attitudes by dealing with negative feelings and building on the positive, this is a cyclical process.
What do we mean by reflection in an educational sense? Jennifer Moon (1999) maintains:
‘The act of reflecting is one which causes us to make sense of what we’ve learned, why we learned it, and how that particular increment of learning took place. Moreover, reflection is about linking one increment of learning to the wider perspective of learning – heading towards seeing the bigger picture.’

Reflection helps raise our awareness of ourselves as learners and to see that we can direct and change our learning. Biggs takes this one step further and points out: ‘A reflection in a mirror is an exact replica of what is in front of it. Reflection in professional practice, however, gives back not what it is, but what might be, an improvement on the original.’ (Biggs, 1999). In other words reflection is not simply about acknowledging who we are and what went wrong but who we might become. It is a transformational process.

Laurillard (1993) draws a distinction between mediated learning (aided by a teacher) and non-mediated learning (experiential). Reflection can help to supplement mediated learning by helping the individual to make connections between the theory and constructs they have learnt formally . If we take driving a car as an example, the driver becomes more accomplished if she can make a connection between the learning theory and highway code mediated by the driving instructor and the process of changing gear, steering and road awareness. Reflection can also enhance un-mediated learning by providing a structure and framework by which the individual can ‘unpack’ an experience and consider the implications of what has happened
Biggs, J and Collis, K (1982) Evaluating the Quality of Learning: the SOLO Taxonomy, (New York: Academic Press)
Biggs, J (1999) Teaching for quality learning at university (Buckingham: Open University Press)
Laurillard, D (1993) Rethinking university teaching: a framework for the effective use of educational technology (London: Routledge)
Moon, J (1999a) Reflection in Learning and Professional Development, Theory and Practice (London: Kogan Page)

Why Reflect?

It is the language of reflection that deepens our knowledge of who we are in relation to others in a community of learners.


Roger Schank (1991) points out the importance of stories in learning, that recalling and creating stories are part of learning. In fact, stories engage all parts of the brain; Zull points out that learning is deepest when it engages the most parts of the brain. Jennifer Moon, the most recent researcher on reflective practice, provides the following definition:

Reflection is a form of mental processing – like a form of thinking – that we use to fulfill a purpose or to achieve some anticipated outcome.  It is applied to relatively complicated or unstructured ideas for which there is not an obvious solution and is largely based on the further processing of knowledge and understanding and possibly emotions that we already possess (based on Moon 1999)

According to Fook-Askeland (2007) process of reflection helps us to develop our understanding more deeply and to make our intuitive knowledge shareable with others. It provides the opportunity to step back and take a look at what our work means to us and our communities. We reflect on our work, so that we can recognize our own intuitive understandings, develop them further, and explore new directions?

Process of reflection

“Every once in a while, encourage yourself and others to take a moment to reflect and make explicit what you have discovered in your work. Share this with others. Ask questions to understand experiences that you may have overlooked in your day-to-day work. By reflecting we can grow and develop our understanding more deeply, so that our work continues to improve the next time we roll through the design process (Fook-Askeland, pp. 8., 2007)”.

Fook, J. & Askeland. G. A. (2007). Challenges of Critical Reflection ‘Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained’. Social Work Education. Routledge

Moon, J. (1999) Reflection in Learning and Professional Development. London: Kogan Page.

Schank, R. (1991) Tell Me a Story: A New Look at Real and Artificial Memory. Atheneum