Pedagogy & Constructivism
-excerpts from IJEP article 7(1), 2017
Full journal article: http://www.theijep.com/pdf/IJEP257.pdf
ePortfolio Learning Lorenzo and Ittelson (2005) defined ePortfolios as digital collections of student-generated authentic content that include resources and multimedia elements contained in a personal space. ePortfolio learning encompasses the offering and exchange of ideas between learners and their audiences that helps learners to develop critical thinking skills and personal presence. In their research, Janosik and Frank (2013) recognized that ePortfolio used as a learning tool pushed learners to continually grow in their accomplishments. When implemented carefully, ePortfolio learning can make great contributions to student learning experiences (Bryant & Chittum, 2013). ePortfolio learning has roots in andragogy and heutagogy. The term andragogy, popularized by Knowles (1985) and building on the work of educators Alexander Kapp and Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, introduced the idea that learners who internalized the learning process focused on how they learned, took control of the learning process on their own terms, and self-regulated their learning. Heutagogy, coined by Hase and Kenyon (2013) is defined as self-determined learning that builds upon constructivism and andragogy. Heutagogy fundamentals also include learning how one learns best, using strategies such as active and reflective learning. The learning approach proposed in this study contains aspects of andragogy and heutagogy that connect to attributes of constructivism and social constructivism, all of which contribute to the ePortfolio learning experience.
Attributes of Social Constructivism
Jonassen (1994) defined constructivism as an active process in which learners construct knowledge based on their experiences. Vygotsky’s (1978) social learning theory described further how social interaction and collaboration influence the construction of knowledge. These two theories share characteristics of Thibodeaux, Cummings, and Harapnuik ePortfolio Persistence 2 social constructivism, where learning is enhanced by layers of social interaction combined with culture and context. Additionally, social environments and social contexts further enhance the learning process by allowing learners to become involved in a community of practice. Research by Carson, McClam, Frank, and Hannum (2014) supported social constructivist learner characteristics, recognizing that ePortfolios serve as tools to “elicit associations with social pedagogies” (p. 75) wherein these associations are meant to promote social learning and connectivity within a community of learners. Eynon et al. (2014) confirmed that social pedagogies are key to learner engagement. Similarly, Jonassen (1995) identified several attributes of meaningful learning. These attributes include learning that is active, constructive, collaborative, intentional, conversational, contextualized, and reflective. Learning is impacted by these attributes and further supported by technology that consists of designs that engage learners and learning environments that promote learner initiated construction of knowledge when learners have opportunities to be socially connected with others. Jonassen (1990) stated that multiple perspectives and learner attributes contribute to meaningful learning opportunities. All of this takes place in the mind of the learner (Jonassen, 1990), and growth of mind cannot be achieved within one’s own skin alone (Bruner, 1991). Bass (2014) acknowledged that ePortfolios and social pedagogies assist learners in developing a sense of agency that is critical to building experience in their chosen field. As ePortfolio learning combines with social learning and constructivist pedagogies, this relationship could have a profound impact on ePortfolio practices used for teaching and learning.
A Learner-Centered Approach
A critical understanding of ePortfolios using social constructivist principles requires a learning approach that complements the very origins of ePortfolio learning. The learning approach in the Digital Learning and Leading (DLL) program was designed with learner-centered principles that enable a shift of control and ownership of the learning process to the learner and away from the instructor. Researchers recognize this approach as a component of a self-regulated personal learning environment where learners exercise control over the selection of tools and resources that will be gathered and disseminated through choice of content and learning tools (Buchem, 2012; Buchem, Tur, & Hölterhof, 2014; Sheperd & Skrabut, 2011). Drawing upon Dewey’s (1910) theory that reflection within the learning community deepens and complements learning, Nguyen and Ikeda (2015) acknowledge that ePortfolios can enhance the self-regulated learning process. As such, ePortfolios were acknowledged as the eleventh high-impact practice in the field of education (Center for Engaged Learning, 2016). To create such an experience for learners, Eynon et al. (2014) proposed that “the most powerful ePortfolio practice is inherently connective and integrative” (p. 8) when combined with other high-impact learning practices. Since ePortfolio practice is inherently eclectic, it deserves an equally eclectic learning foundation. In the DLL program, we developed the COVA (choice, ownership, voice, and authenticity) learning approach to give our learners the freedom to choose (C) how they wish to organize, structure and present their experiences and evidences of learning. We give them ownership (O) over the selection of their authentic projects and the entire ePortfolio process—including selection of their portfolio tools. We use the ePortfolio experiences to give our learners the opportunity to use their own voice (V) to revise and restructure their work and ideas. Finally, we use authentic (A) or real world learning experiences that enable students to make a difference in their own learning environments (Harapnuik, 2016). Subsequent paragraphs address the related literature that pertain to ePortfolio learning and the elements necessary for a learner-centered approach. We will refer to learner-centered ideas as the COVA learning approach.