Prof. Gunter Sauders
Dr. Gerda Wielander
The University of Westminster recently re-designed and implemented and entirely new undergraduate curriculum as part of a project called Learning Futures. The Department of Modern Languages and Cultures used this opportunity to introduce learning portfolios across all core modules. The purpose of the learning portfolio is for the student to take responsibility for their own learning process and to encourage students to continuously engage with all the learning stimuli provided. It is a way to encourage students of Modern Languages to study on an ongoing basis rather than in burst mode at the end of the term. The tasks making up the portfolio are varied and reflect the different skills in language (and culture) learning. The pedagogic aim is for students to build their portfolio over the course of the semester while receiving ongoing feedback on their work, which is a visible part of the portfolio; students can literally see their skills grow. Students often struggle to study at a continuous pace. By requiring them to engage with the portfolio we are hoping to build a habit and an approach to studying, which will put them in good stead at later points in their academic journey.
To facilitate the changes, Blackboard Portfolios were used. They allowed an easy integration between teaching, learning and an assessment of each element of the portfolio. Students undertook a substantial amount of independent work and the technology itself provided several advantages over paper, as learners had to create a series of language recordings, summaries, reflections, etc., which were stored electronically in order to track progress over time. Through the integration of Blackboard Portfolios in supporting the connection of learning, assessment and feedback we fostered a ‘joined-up’ learning environment, and allowed attention to focus on individual student needs by supporting them to develop better digital literacy skills.
This presentation will outline the learning rationale underpinning the design of the electronic portfolio, the process of implementation, including its challenges, and draws lessons from preliminary data collected from student and staff feedback about the efficacy of the portfolio as a learning tool. It concludes with a discussion of potential enhancements as we go forward.