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Digital teaching portfolios for the enhancement of teaching and learning at the Hong Kong Institute of Education

22.04.2014

By Cher Ping Lim, Professor, Hong Kong Institute of Education

The initiative of implementing digital teaching portfolios at the Hong Kong Institute of Education began in the year of 2011. At an individual level, digital teaching portfolio offers a context for articulating one’s teaching philosophy, reflecting upon one’s teaching, documenting evidence of teaching accomplishments for present and future employers, and through which, one’s pride and esteem for teaching, as well as teaching practices could be enhanced (De Rijdt et al., 2006; Wright et al., 1999). At a community level, teaching portfolio encourages inquiry-based dialogues on teaching, facilitates the process of mentoring junior teaching staff and offers resources which helps develop effective criteria for teaching in a tertiary institution (Quinlan, 2002; Wright et al., 1999).The Institute is a higher education institution in Hong Kong offering teacher education as well as multidisciplinary programmes. It has a strong commitment to quality enhancement of student learning and professional development of teaching staff. By using digital teaching portfolio as a professional development tool, the initiative aims to build a professional learning community for the enhancement of teaching and learning at the Institute. The tool allows teaching staff to engage in documentation of good teaching practices, reflection upon one’s pedagogies, professional collaboration, course development, and constructive ongoing dialogues of effective and innovative teaching. With support from the Institute, individual staff can build their digital teaching portfolios on the online platform, Mahara (https://mahara.org/), which allows portfolios to be shared easily among teaching staff and other stakeholders.

In the process of implementation, a guidebook with step-by-step instructions on building digital teaching portfolios on Mahara was firstly developed. On the other hand, based on the literature on teaching portfolios, a template with suggested contents and structure was produced. The implementation team proposed different types of portfolios to be constructed: 1) individual-based, 2) interest-based and 3) programme/course-based; which were later modified into two types: individual and group (e.g., course, departmental) portfolios in the actual implementation. Workshops were offered to the team supervisors and members to kick start the process of developing their own portfolios. A survey was administered to staff members to examine their perceptions and concern of using digital teaching portfolios. From the feedback received, it is suggested that more technical and conceptual supports were needed to cater for individual needs. Individual consultation sessions were provided, during which each staff member has the chance to brainstorm with the supporting team, to decide on the purpose, contents, and organization of the portfolio. At the departmental level, staff development workshops were conducted to introduce the potentials and benefits of using digital teaching portfolios with reference to the unique situation of each department. Telephone and email enquiries were also provided for technical support.

As the implementation continued, staff members who had built their portfolios were invited to share their experiences at the institute-level seminars. Figures 1 and 2 are screen captures of two digital teaching portfolios constructed by individual staff members. With the variety of purposes of building digital teaching portfolios, seminars and sharing sessions were organized for staff members to exchange ideas and address any concerns. Online resources for developing digital teaching portfolios were also provided. Several departmental and course portfolios were also set up to facilitate ongoing inquiries into teaching and learning within the department and among course tutors. Figure 3 is a screen capture of a departmental portfolio. The digital teaching portfolio initiative has been shared in conferences locally and internationally.

Figure 1. An example of a digital teaching portfolio of a staff member

 

 

 

 

Figure 2. Another example of a digital teaching portfolio

 

 

 

Figure 3. An example of a departmental portfolio

 

To evaluate the implementation, interviews were conducted with teaching staff to examine their experiences in developing digital teaching portfolios. Generally speaking, they found that digital teaching portfolios were beneficial to them both personally and socially, as indicated in the following excerpts:

            “This is an effective way to disseminate what I have done in teaching and learning… I can be related to my students and my colleagues, if they are interested, they can have a look at it. It also helps me to accumulate to build up my profile.”

            “When I want to look for something, I go to my teaching portfolio and I can find everything there. I can also revisit the things I did in the past, and plan for making improvements in the future, that’s for my own benefit. And for community building, if I make the contents rich in the portfolio, other people will benefit more, because they can see a lot of things and learn… If everybody builds such a portfolio, I can learn from them as well.”

            “In one course I taught with another colleague, we try to use Mahara as the communication platform to share our teaching materials. We also write down our reflections, personal reflections, teaching reflections on the platform, so that we can know about each other’s teaching and learning, and how we feel about teaching and learning.”

The descriptive account above highlights the role of teaching e-portfolios in the quality enhancement of higher education teaching and learning, and its impact on culture, beliefs, policies and practices in the context of implementation to build a professional learning community. It also highlights the importance of a set of mechanisms to support the implementation of digital teaching portfolios that includes:  (a) staff professional learning and mentorship, (b) staff buy-in by meeting their needs of showcasing their teaching and learning practices and outcomes in their staff appraisal, and reflecting upon and enhancing their teaching and learning practices and outcomes, and (c) technical, peer and leadership support.

Reference

  • De Rijdt, C., Tiquet, E., Dochy, F., & Devolder, M. (2006). Teaching portfolios in higher education and their effects: An explorative study. Teaching and Teacher Education, 22(8), 1084-1093.

  • Wright, W. A., Knight, P. T., & Pomerleau, N. (1999). Portfolio people: Teaching and learning dossiers and innovation in higher education. Innovative Higher Education, 24(2), 89-103.

The author, Professor Cher Ping Lim, is Director of the Centre for Learning, Teaching and Technology at the Hong Kong Institute of Education. He is also Honorary Professor of Education at Edith Cowan University, Australia. You can contact him through clim@ied.edu.hk.