Rethinking employability: Enhancing learning and work readiness through individual, customised and lifelong digital portfolios

Year: 2015

Author: Bennett, Dawn, Blackley, Susan, Sheffield, Rachel

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The developmental benefits of amassing a portfolio during higher education study are well documented; however, the three most problematic aspects of current ePortfolio platforms—cost, specificity and lifelong access—remain a concern across the sector. This paper reports early findings from a project that refined and trialled an innovative web-based template with which educators and students can customise an evidence-based, professional digital portfolio specific to their field. Mapping against the professional standards of the Australian Professional Standards of Graduate Teachers (AITSL), higher education students were supported to collect, critique and curate evidence of their capabilities within a personalised digital portfolio to which they would have lifelong access.
The project responded to social and economic demands for graduates able to negotiate rapidly transforming employment contexts. In particular, as initial work and career progression are determined by evidence and demonstration of professional standards and competencies the project sought to spotlight a tool (web-based digital portfolio) and a process (scaffolding capture-critique-curate) to achieve this. The initial focus on pre-service teachers responded to the critical needs of this cohort. Many countries report teacher attrition of 40-50% in the first five years of service. A further and important aspect is the development or absence of “teacher” identity, which commentators argue is critical to retention.
Responding also to concerns that attrition may relate to students entering higher education without a sense of motivation and commitment, and without understanding the realities of the demands of either their degree program or their future work, the project acknowledged the capacity of portfolios to aide in this identity development. The trial used a limited-functionality platform (Weebly) established by the project team. In the longer term, the team hopes to develop an open-access website as a platform for a customised, scaffolded professional digital portfolio for all students (undergraduate and graduate) to capture, critique, and curate evidence to meet the professional standards or graduate competencies in their respective fields. This reshaping of the portfolio will help graduates to be prepared for the 21st century workforce, and will potentially increase their retention and progression in their chosen professions. The customised digital portfolio will overcome the limitations of rigid, institutionally housed ePortfolios, costly commercial platforms, limited graduate access, the time and ability of educators to utilise ePortfolios effectively, and lack of alignment with professional standards and competencies.