Centre For Recording Achievement – 4th International Seminar

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I’ve recently returned from the CRA conference in Plymouth. The seminar was titled “Researching and Evaluating Personal Development Planning and e-Portfolio” and had attendees from as far afield as Tokyo and the United States.

Introductory Plenary and discussion

The conference started with an introduction from Rob Ward, the Director of the CRA, and from Pauline Kneale, the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Teaching and Learning at Plymouth University. The title of the first main session was “The global ePortfolio Research Forum – Joining the dots and identifying the gaps.”. There were three stimulus contributions from:

1) Bret Eynon, LaGuardia Community College and Laura Gambino, Guttman Community College (CUNY)

This was an outline of work that had taken place across 24 campuses in the United States. The site offers data, practices and strategies, showing how ePortfolio can advance learning, deepen pedagogy and assessment, and support institutional change.

2)Beverley Oliver, Deakin University, Australia,

3) Igor Balaban, Project Co-ordinator, Europortfolio, University of Zagreb, Croatia.

Igor spoke about the work of EuroPortfolio, who are trying to co-ordinate research and good practice from around Europe to help provide strategic guidance for ePortfolio development.

We were encouraged to discuss with colleagues the dots and gaps in our organisation, and what we might want to take away from conference to work with those. This was a good opportunity to reflect on the success we have had so far and the distance we still need to go, and compare that with another institutions at the same time.

Researching our practice

The seminar then split into different strands, and I attended the strand themed,”Researching our practice.”

The first session looked at some research around 4 main statements about reflection and ePortfolio.

The statements and results are available here. – http://www.recordingachievement.org/images/pdfs/SEMINARS/kathi.pdf.

The second session had John Peters describing the use of students as partners in research. This chimed with the keynote from the Durham conference by Abbi Flint from the HEA about student as partners, and many of the same references were made (Mike Neary, Mick Healey). I felt the really interesting part of John’s presentation was  the part about student appreciative inquiries as a research and change management approach. Appreciative inquiry methods look at what’s done currently that is seen as good, and how can it be improved even further.  He also described the 4D approach (discovery, dream, design and destiny) and how this guides the research. I think this is an excellent model and would like to conduct some research at Newcastle University based on an appreciative inquiry methodology.

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Research and project report papers

The next session was another split session and I attended an interesting talk by Andy Howard from the Univeristy of Sussex on “Measuring and tracking the impact of curriculum based and co-curricular reflective Careers & Employability programmes.” While very engaging, I didn’t feel as though I had learned anything that I can use at Newcastle University. It was nice to see that their award scheme uses ePortfolio in a similar way to ours.

Dinner and Launch of Rapport

A fantastic dinner was  had at the Barbican in Plymouth. This was an excellent opportunity to relax and meet new friends. As I had attended this conference on my own, I found this an excellent opportunity to meet new contacts in the field of ePortfolio. This event also included the launch of Rapport. Rapport is the new International Journal for Recording Achievement, Planning and Portfolios.

Day Two

An early start on day two introduced Kate Coleman, Project Manager, OLT Project,Curate, credential and carry forward digital learning evidence, Deakin University Australia. Her presentation was titled  “Digital Portfolios and Open Digital Badges – friends or foes? In her presentation she outlined how badges are used at Deakin. You can view Kate’s video she made for the conference below:

As a long-time convert to Digital Badges, I was very interesting in their implementation at Deakin University. I’m interested to see how long it will be before badges become an integral part of the educational process in Russell Group Universities.


Alison James, Associate Dean, Learning and Teaching, London College of Fashion presented the morning keynote presentation. An excellent talk about her work encouraging reflective practice in creative subjects. She discussed the use of lego soft play, the different reactions from academics when introducing lego, and the fantastic reflection that it can bring out when a skilled facilitator is involved.

Ten Years and 12,000 ePortfolios Later

Agnes (Tracy) Hooper Gottlieb, Seton Hall University, NJ, USA: Ten Years and 12,000+ ePortfolios Later: A Transformative Project at Seton Hall University.

In 2005 Seton Hall University introduced a new one semester, one-credit module that all new students had to undertake. This is approximately 12,000 students each year. The course was called “University Life” and was a reflective course exploring the reasons for coming to University and the change in the students personalities.

This course is still run and is an integral part of University culture. Analytics  show 70% of students who get an A in “University Life” will graduate, while only 30% of students who get a C will.
The students have to blog at various points throughout the course, sharing this post with their tutor and they can also share with their peers if they wish to. The first exercise in the first week is to reflect on why they have chosen to come to Seton Hall. The analysis of this exercise looked for things like connection to family. If family is not mentioned, that student is flagged as possibly not having as strong a support mechanism as other students. This type of analysis has helped improve Seton Hall’s retention figures, especially during the first semester.

Accessing the student experience

Sarah Jeffries Watts, University of Birmingham, UK: Reflections of the unexpected: exploring student narratives on partnership working.

Helen Bowstead, Ricky Lowes, Emma Purnell, University Of Plymouth, UK: Getting students to talk back. Eportfolio based learning and the potential for dialogic feedback.

The University of Plymouth used Pebblepad to deliver feedback to their students for one of their modules. The students had the opportunity to reply to their feedback and dialogue between the academic tutor and the student was encouraged. I thought it was interesting that the students’ expectations had to be changed to encourage to engage in this discussion. They were used to receiving feedback using a “transmission” model of delivery, while this “dialogic” model was new to them.

The full programme and resources is found at the following address:



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