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Tricks of the Trade: Using Digital Portfolios and Reflective Practices to Develop Balanced Graduate Student Professional Identities

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Exploring Graduate Student Experiences

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1608.1 - 26.1608.10



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Paper Authors


Martina V. Svyantek Virginia Tech Department of Engineering Education Orcid 16x16

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Martina Svyantek is a doctoral student in the Virginia Tech Department of Engineering Education. She completed her undergraduate degree at Auburn University in 2011 in Civil Engineering. Her ePortfolio can be found at:

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Lisa D. McNair Virginia Tech

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Lisa D. McNair is an Associate Professor of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech, where she also serves as co-Director of the VT Engineering Communication Center (VTECC). Her research interests include interdisciplinary collaboration, design education, communication studies, identity theory and reflective practice. Projects supported by the National Science Foundation include exploring disciplines as cultures, interdisciplinary pedagogy for pervasive computing design; writing across the curriculum in Statics courses; as well as a CAREER award to explore the use of e-portfolios to promote professional identity and reflective practice.

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Tricks of the Trade: Using Digital Portfolios and Reflective Practices to develop balanced Graduate Student Professional IdentitiesGraduate teaching assistants (GTAs) play important instructional roles inundergraduate education, experiences critical for preparing the futureprofessoriate. Building an ePortfolio—a digital collection of artifacts representingits creator—promotes reflective practice that leads to intentional identityconstruction. Graduate students and programs are beginning to employ ePortfoliosto develop such reflective practices. In this paper, the authors conduct a systematicliterature review to investigate (a) the use of ePortfolios to promote teachingidentities and (b) the challenges of implementing and sustaining an effectiveePortfolio program within STEM graduate student programs.Findings from this review show that portfolios have been used in educationalsettings for a wide variety of purposes – among these are assessment, learningdevelopment, and professional presentation. Portfolio creation has also been usedextensively for assessment purposes within student-teacher training programs, butnot within a research-based framework for identity development for graduatestudents. Within engineering settings, portfolio research and practice has beenmainly focused on the undergraduate population, not on graduate students.However, many contributions to the literature link ePortfolios to reflective practice.We combine the theories and practices found in this literature review to clearlyexplicate this link and to argue that ePortfolios show promise as an effective methodfor graduate students to develop their professional identities through the use of anarrative process. Specifically, we examine the use of ePortfolios to help graduatestudents develop as reflective practitioners who are able to balance a triad of roleidentities (researcher, teacher, and lifelong learner). Finally, from these findings, wealso present “tricks of the trade” that researchers and practitioners have used toimplement effective ePortfolio programs.

Svyantek, M. V., & McNair, L. D. (2015, June), Tricks of the Trade: Using Digital Portfolios and Reflective Practices to Develop Balanced Graduate Student Professional Identities Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24944

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