Wednesday, June 08, 2005


In a comment yesterday, I was asked to elaborate on my statement in my blog entry on the MNSCU eFolio Research: "... These findings further validate my concern that we cannot lump all electronic portfolios in one basket:..." The last part of that statement was, "a rich description of the conditions of implementation is critical to understanding the results." In other words, "the devil is in the details" on all levels: how the portfolio is conceptualized (including the purpose), the process and the product. I have written earlier about 50 Words for Portfolios or Alan Levine's reference to the poem about the blind men and the elephant. Portfolios can be created for many purposes and with many tools. In fact, the AAHE reported six categories of uses and these categories were used in the analysis of the data from the respondents in the Minnesota eFolio study:
  • Educational planning
  • Documenting knowledge, skills, and abilities
  • Tracking development
  • Finding a job
  • Use for evaluation in class
  • Performance monitoring in the workplace

My only criticism of this list is that the terms reflection and learning are not overtly stated, but assumed within at least the first three categories/purposes. I also believe strongly in the impact of Activity Theory on the implementation of electronic portfolios, that the purpose and the tools have an inextricable impact on the outcomes. Here is a diagram from the Theory that shows the relationship between the different aspects of the activity/system:
  • Subject - the individual or group whose point of view is taken in the analysis of the activity
  • Object (or objective) - the target of the activity
  • Instruments (Tools) - internal or external mediating artifacts which help to achieve the outcomes
  • Community - one or more people who share the objective with the subject
  • Rules - regulate actions and interactions within the activity system
  • Division of labor - how tasks are divided horizontally between community members - any vertical division of power and status
There is currently a dissertation in process that will be looking at the impact of purpose and tools in the process of developing electronic portfolios at two universities, using the lens of Activity Theory to understand the differences. I am looking forward to reading the analysis.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like this idea, but there is a question. Should we require each people to keep his or her detailed personal profiles in his or her life?