NOTE: This page has been duplicated and extended in the page on
Instrumental and Ontological Reflection.

2007/9 August
Portfolios as CoP
ePortfolios are now reasonably established, even if they are focused on the affordances of instrumental reflection (see below).
Here is a paper that outlines the overall principles of exploiting the affordances of Portfolios as Communities of Practice. It was originally written in 2007/8, but then got lost in my 'to do' list. Its probably best to circulate it here.

2009 June
The Eifel London Learning Forum was about e-portfolios.

But portfolios and reflection are different things to different people. We mapped out some of the differences between reflection about competencies, and about professional identity.

First off, this is about interactive and collaborative portfolios, but it in our own work, based on affordances, the foundation for what we do is personal story telling. In other words, we start from personal stories, which are mapped out on the right hand side of the map. Once we have stories that are complex, self-organised, and about both learning and identity, we then try to build up facilities for taking that personal learning into an interactive and collaborative environment.

The portfolio industry grew up over the past few years, concentrating largely on competencies and skills (the material on the left hand side of the screen). In our research we have been working mainly on the 'other side of the page' as it were. What we need to make clear is:
1. There is quite a sharp disctinction between what might be called 'competency reflection' and reflection about professional identity, or 'ontological reflection' - its quite simply the difference between what you can do, and who you want to be.
2. Both kinds of reflection are valid in their own contexts. This is not about ranking the one against the other. Moreover, the activities, materials and insights that come out of the one process can and should be transferred, where appropriate, for the other.
3. There is specific relationship between competencies and identity - competencies are necessary but not sufficient for developing your professional identity.
4. What we see at the EIFEL conference is a shift across the page from left to right. This is encouraging for us as researchers and developers, but also encouraging for us as academics in Higher Education (HE) - because HE must include-and-go-beyond competencies, and specifically HE must provide, and faciliate the use of, academic 'space' as 'liminal space' - i.e. space in which students can step back, or 'cut loose' from the pressures of everyday work and life, and explore new possibilities and new hypotheses.

What you can do is determined by extrinsic factors and institutions, its what is necessary for you to do particular tasks or jobs, and it is benchmarked against public criteria, though processes which are publicly defined. What you want to be on the other hand is determined by your self, its about your self, its determined by intrinsic criteria, and its benchmarked by your own private criteria (which might or might not resonate with public criteria, but that's not the point her, nor can it be taken for granted).

Next, competencies concerns that which is complicated, predertermined (in scope and outcomes), predicatable (as far as possible), and can be subjected to measurement and control. Identity, and personal sense making concerns what is complex (in the sense of complexity theory), emergent (and sometimes surprising), retrospective sense making, and scanning and faciliating rather than measurement and control.

Reflection about identity and the learning process is creative and innovative, because both are intangible and tacit - you cant 'put your finger on' either of them. This needs a multimodal and multimedia approach, and is based on theories of mearning and communication as inherently 'synaesthetic' - i.e. the norm is that many senses are used, together, and using only one sense at a time is rare. The process that results is open, and although it can include written text, it must go beyond it, to other, more open text. Competency reflection on the other hand, based as it is on extrinsic criteria, is not surprisingly about compliance and measurement, written text is highly suitable, as it provides the shortest route to closure, rather than openness.

So reflection about identity is about sense making, personal sense making, and the way people participate in, and create, complex adaptive networks, whereas competency reflection is about fine, summative assessment - 'performance technologies' as opposed to biographic or ontological technologies.

Portfolios can be repositories to store data which complies with bureucratic requirements.

Portfolios can also be dynamic, and the sites of interesting new affordances. Some of these issues are explored in a paper on Innovative Approaches to Portfolios as Formative Assessment