At the beginning of this year we were anticipating another extraordinary PebblePad conference, scheduled to be held in Edinburgh, Scotland, in June. As anyone who has attended a previous PebbleBash will attest, at the heart of these gatherings with our global community are the stories of innovative learning and assessment design, challenges overcome and ambitions realised. Our community are a generous and clever bunch and one of the joys of the conference is seeing people connect, share ideas and crowd source alternatives to stale or less-than-optimal teaching and learning activity. It’s a hallmark of our community that PebblePad use rarely seems to stand still, and so it appears this year in the stories that were going to be presented at PebbleBash 2020. While we’ve been unable to get together in person this year, we’re still able to share the generosity and innovation of our PebblePad users by making available the 25 enlightening case studies that would have been presented at PebbleBash.
You can download a free copy of our case study book or browse the individual case studies from the link below, but we hope you’ll stick around a little longer for some insights on global perspectives of eportfolio we’ve gleaned from pulling these stories together.
The breadth and diversity of the practice described in the case studies is testament to the ingenuity of our community of users; they cover examples of the use of PebblePad to support, guide and develop students at various stages of the learning journey in institutions across the globe. Nevertheless, there are themes and approaches that appear to resonate across the oceans.
Assessment and feedback for learning
Assessment in a range of guises is a common theme across a number of the case studies and the approaches to both formative and summative assessment speak to the versatility of the platform in supporting both common assessment means and some genuinely innovative practice. In some cases, the capability of PebblePad’s assessment engine, ATLAS, to support complex assessment workflows was a solution to a particular need that had previously prevented a move from paper to digital marking. Applications of PebblePad to support authentic assessment, assessment for learning and assessment in real-world contexts are featured in a number of the case studies and point to a global concern to ensure assessment practices are as much learning events as they are judgement on a product or task completed.
In a similar vein, feedback processes and approaches feature heavily – formative, dialogic, iterative, summative; feedback as something in which students need to be involved and engaged and develop literacy around is a common ambition amongst many of our users. Fortunately, their stories point to high probability of success with a considered plan and supported adoption of embedded PebblePad use.
Skills development and competency attainment
From UK Degree Apprenticeships in Business and professional development for academics, to Australian architectural design studies, designing effective learning and assessment activities to capture and evidence skills – from independent research skills to mandated competency - is another common area where PebblePad is employed. This is particularly evident in the use of PebblePad to support healthcare professional education in specific disciplines and for interprofessional education. While several of the case studies speak about mature practice in this area, such as this integration of digital badge use in nursing, a number of stories deal with a recent shift from paper processes in clinical settings to digital, from disciplines such as nursing, medical imaging, optometry and medicine. For anyone contemplating such a transition, these case studies offer experiences, outcomes and valuable lessons learned.
Successful implementation strategies
The final most-common thread involves shared wisdom around successful implementation strategies. We have a terrific tale of sustaining and growing institutional use of PebblePad over nine years from Edith Cowan University but most of the papers include valuable insights into what works and - crucially – the supports and resourcing needed for successful implementation, no matter whether the scale is institution-wide or at a programme/course level. Key elements to success include ensuring that the eportfolio practice is embedded within the programme of study, attention to student and staff engagement and training, sufficient curricular/learning design support, and an acknowledgement that transition is not always easy, but ultimately very rewarding.
One of the most striking things about viewing these case studies as a collection rather than single entities is that, taken together, they provide a convenient and enlightening snapshot of current thinking and practice in the eportfolio space. For those of us who have been doing this for a while, it should come as no surprise that there are as many ways to 'do eportfolio’ as there are practitioners. Of course, there are pedagogical commonalities – a focus on reflection, connecting and making sense of learning, gathering evidence of development and achievement which may or may not be shared in a showcase portfolio … but it’s the approaches, the applications and the shifts in focus which are inherently interesting and potentially open up broader conversations around what an eportfolio is for.
And, in this collection at least, there does seem to be some difference in the way portfolio practice is enacted in the United States as opposed to Canada, the UK and Australia. In the latter contexts, the eportfolio practice described is often heavily curricular and co-curricular, explicitly tied to disciplinary outcomes or employability and with a focus on the development of professional identity. In our examples from the US, these case studies foreground eportfolio practice as personal development and for integrative learning; it is often inter-disciplinary and hinges on concepts of digital identity. It’s important to note that our three examples are all from one university and could indicate an institutional approach rather than a broader one, however our experiences in putting together our publication on High-Impact Practices and attendance at AAC&U earlier in the year indicate that these are not outliers. There are elements of these different approaches to eportfolio across all contexts, however it’s what is given prominence in the telling of the stories that is most interesting.
ADVANCED AND UNUSUAL PRACTICE
It’s always exciting for us here at PebblePad to find out about the very many ways the platform is used to support specific learning, teaching and assessment ambitions. And one of the most thrilling things is watching how this use evolves over time as PebblePad use settles into an institution. A number of the case studies from our longer-standing customer institutions speak about opportunities for evaluation and revision becoming opportunities for broader reinvention. We’re treated to some especially innovative uses of PebblePad, including its fully-integrated use in a simulated clinical ward and supporting the creation of study plans in STEM classes, which has provided unexpected insights into student perspectives and experiences. On that very note, PebblePad is increasingly being used to support student success such as through personal tutoring or distance learning contexts. And, in addition to the terrific curriculum-based and assessment work happening in PebblePad, the platform is also being called on to support once-onerous admin processes that include double-blind marking, LMS/VLE integration to support workflows and a portfolio-based admissions process at the Royal College of Art.
We hope this taste of the variety of ways in which PebblePad is being used and the myriad learning and teaching ambitions it is supporting has whetted your appetite for the complete tales. The link below will take you to the individual case studies to browse and choose from at your leisure, or to download all 25 exemplars of pedagogical goodness together in our case study book.