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This year, I began teaching and advising first- and second-year students in our Concurrent Education program. This program allows students to earn two bachelor degrees in five years, one in an academic major, and the other in education. Education courses are taught in each year of the program.
One of the outcomes early on in this program is the creation of an educational portfolio or ePortfolio.
Students document their learning throughout the program using an ePortfolio. When finished, they will have an ePortfolio that shows how they meet the Ontario College of Teachers’ (OCT) professional standards. It will also contain their teaching philosophy, and resume/cv. Rather than the customary cover letter, an ePortfolio helps students to present a bit of themselves in a visually appealing format. This is something that is becoming an essential part of the process of becoming a professional teacher.
But it is much more than that.
I know this because I created my own ePortfolio. In it, you will find this blog, as well as other blogs I have written on teaching and related topics. You will also see that my focus is on teaching and research in a postsecondary educational setting, and so it has a slightly different feel than what my students are doing. I thought it was important that I develop one so that I would know some of the challenges in creating an ePortfolio. I also wanted to experience some of the fun too!
What I learned along the way is magical.
While much of what students do is to assemble artifacts (e.g., photos, documents, videos) that show how they meet the OCT professional standards. The magic arrives when they write reflections about these artifacts and share how they use them in their teaching.
Teachers, like most professionals, are all about doing.
They prepare lesson plans, design courses, conduct student assessments, lecture, and facilitate student learning in lots of wonderful ways. They are, put simply, busy with the practice of their craft.
What we are learning, however, is that the practice of reflective thought is essential for teachers to grow as educators, and to ensure they connect with their students.
Well-written ePortfolios include a reflective bit of writing (usually a paragraph or two) for each artifact. It is in writing reflections that students take a deep dive into their values, ethics, and ways of knowing that support their teaching. I am greatly enjoying reading the ePortfolios my students are creating.
This helped me understand what I have achieved with my teaching. It also helped me to establish some goals for where I want my teaching to go. Most importantly, it allowed me the freedom to dream about why I teach and how I help to make the world a little bit better by “teaching for learning.”