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Raze the Silos: Using Digital Portfolios to Increase Integrative Thinking

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

A Challenge to Engineering Educators

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1020.1 - 23.1020.15



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Paper Authors


Lisa DuPree McNair Virginia Tech

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Dr. Lisa DuPree McNair is an Associate Professor of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech, where she also serves as Assistant Department Head of Graduate Education and co-Director of the VT Engineering Communication Center (VTECC). She received her Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Chicago and an M.A. and B.A. in English from the University of Georgia. Her research interests include interdisciplinary collaboration, design education, communication studies, identity theory and reflective practice. Projects supported by the National Science Foundation include interdisciplinary pedagogy for pervasive computing design; writing across the curriculum in Statics courses; as well as a National Science Foundation CAREER award to explore the use of e-portfolios for graduate students to promote professional identity and reflective practice. Her teaching emphasizes the roles of engineers as communicators and educators, the foundations and evolution of the engineering education discipline, assessment methods, and evaluating communication in engineering.

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Wende Garrison Virginia Tech

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Wende Garrison got her bachelor's and master's from Portland State University in Film & Television and Rhetoric & Composition. She taught at Portland State University for over eight years in their award-winning general education program. While she was there, she oversaw Portland State’s use of the Open Source Portfolio (OSP) and the university wide conversion to OSP. Active in the OSP community, Garrison helped many universities adopt digital portfolios. Garrison then joined the Association of American Colleges and Universities where she ran the VALUE Initiative. Through that FIPSE grant, she recruited and led over 100 faculty volunteers from universities around the country in the development of 15 national rubrics that have been downloaded more than 15,000 times.
Garrison currently is the the Director of Assessment, Curriculum, and Communication for the Portfolio to Professoriate NSF grant at Virginia Tech. There she has written and taught a digital portfolio curriculum to students on four campuses, bringing professional portfolios to graduate students in STEM disciplines.
Garrison also consults and gives keynotes at a variety of institutions on digital portfolios, assessment, rubrics, and curriculum mapping.

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Raze the Silos: Using Digital Portfolios to Increase Integrative ThinkingAs more and more institutions embrace outcomes-based education and its focus onaptitudes and skills, integrative thinking is of growing interest in both higher educationcurricula and students' professional development.Aware that we are serving our students a silo-ed education that is reflective of the riftsbetween our disciplines, academic leaders have started to pursue institutional missionsthat provide high impact practices for every student. Often digital portfolios are beingimplemented as both a high impact practice and a tool which promotes integration--helping students see connections between one course and another, between their majorand their career, between their education and their life.In this session, lessons learned about digital portfolios and their contributions tointegrative thinking instruction (in the context of an NSF CAREER grant) will be shared.Examining whether digital portfolios promote identity integration in graduate students,this project has spent two full academic years teaching students on five campuses to buildprofessional digital portfolios around their research, teaching, service and lifelonglearning accomplishments.Combining case studies, pre and post surveys, interviews, and thematic coding of digitalportfolio text, preliminary findings posit what three practices result in increasedintegrative thinking in students.These three practices can be used with any student in any curricular or co-curricularsetting.This session will provide background on the CAREER grant as well as a deep dive intothose three integrative practices:1. Prompts (for annotations of portfolio evidence) that require reflection on past lessons learned as well as application of those lessons learned to future plans elicit more integrative responses from engineering students.2. Structured peer evaluation of digital portfolios results in deeper and more reflective portfolio construction and a growing interest in identity representation within the digital portfolio.3. Inclusion of non-traditional evidence and annotations--such as for lifelong learning or service--prompts students to making more connections between different role identities, as non-traditional areas are not already perceived by the student as belonging to one established silo or another.What we've learned can help students at a variety of institutions synthesize the curricularand co-curricular experiences they have had. Models for all three practices (that can beimplemented widely) will be publicly available at the session.Weaving together disparate pieces of their education by creating a digital portfolio notonly teaches students to apply the knowledge faculty are communicating, but helpsstudents articulate and "own" their knowledge, abilities, and competencies andencourages professional identity formation.The findings of this project, shared in this session, add to growing body of research onthe use of digital portfolios in engineering education and also provide recommendationsfor more intentional applications of digital portfolios, especially in preparing futurefaculty.

McNair, L. D., & Garrison, W. (2013, June), Raze the Silos: Using Digital Portfolios to Increase Integrative Thinking Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22405

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