close up of file cabinet label with rows of files blurring off in the background of the image

Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by emdot

Much of the scholarship about electronic portfolios (ePortfolios) collects data from students upon completion of an ePortfolio assignment (for example: Fink, 2001; Campbell, Melenyzer, Nettler, & Wyman, 2002; Corbett, LaFrance, Giacomini, and Fournier, 2013). Such scholarship often focuses on the final, presentation portfolio. We recognize that before there is a final portfolio, students require a larger collection, or archive, of materials from which to pull when they present and reflect. Final, summative reflection-oriented, presentation ePortfolios can demonstrate the following habits of mind: engagement, creativity, and metacognition (Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing, 2011), as well as application of past knowledge to new situations, communication with clarity and precision, and interdependent thought (Costa, 2008). However, helping students to systematically archive materials so that they might later reflect and engage helps foster other habits of mind: persistence, curiosity, and openness (Framework for Success, 2011), as well as problem solving, data collection, and continuous learning (Costa, 2008). By asking students to develop archival habits of mind, we emphasize the formative, scaffolding activities that students must engage in to make connections during and across an entire course, program, or degree through which they build an ePortfolio. To help students develop archival habits of mind we will need to help them re-see the importance of keeping all of their work, not just what they have internalized as important or significant. We will be helping change their attention and archival “patterns and values that [they] have come to see as so natural that [they] really don’t even see them anymore” (Davidson, 2011, p. 29).

Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Giulia Forsythe

Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Giulia Forsythe

Many people emphasize that portfolios cannot just become filing cabinets; therefore, when promoting the need for students to develop archive portfolios, it is critical to simultaneously encourage formative reflection. Although Bennett (2011) argues that “formative assessment” is not consistently conceptualized clearly enough to have positive claims about its implementation, other scholars agree that formative assessment is used to provide feedback to a teacher about student learning so that s/he might revise instructional practices and materials to further ensure student success (for example: Heritage, 2007; Missett, Brunner, Callahan, Moon, & Azano, 2014; Young & Jackman, 2014). Heritage (2007) specifically emphasizes “student involvement” (p. 2). What better way to involve students in formative assessment than to have them reflect on their own learning? Wylie and Lyon (2013) suggest that faculty reflect on their own use of formative assessment as a form of formative assessment (p. 17). Formative reflective assignments will prompt both students and their instructors to revise and realign curricular decisions to improve student learning, both in the class as well as transfer student learning to other contexts. Formative reflection will help students to actualize their network of learning; it will also provide wayfinding points (Morville 2005, p. 73). they can later use to help identify materials they need for summative reflection and presentation portfolios.


  • Campbell, D.M., Melenyzer, B.J., Nettler, D.H., & Wyman, R.M., Jr. (2002). Portfolios and Performance Assessment in Teacher Education. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
  • Corbett, S. J., LaFrance, M., Giacomini, C., Fournier, J. (2013). Mapping, re-mapping, and reflecting on writing process realities: Transitioning from print to electronic portfolios in first-year composition. Eds. K. Wills & R. Rice. In ePortfolio Performance Support Systems: Constructing, Presenting, and Assessing Portfolios (pp. 181-204). Fort Collins, CO: The WAC Clearinghouse and Parlor Press.
  • Costa, A. L. (2008). Describing the habits of mind. In A. L. Costa & B. Kallick (Eds.) Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind: 16 Essential Characteristics for Success (pp. 15-41). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
  • Council of Writing Program Administrators, National Council of Teachers of English, & National Writing Project. (2011). Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing. Retrieved from
  • Davidson, C. N. (2011). Now you see it: How technology and brain science will transform schools and business for the 21st century. New York, NY: Penguin Books.
  • Fink, L.D. (2001). Higher-level learning: The first step toward more significant learning. In D. Lieberman & C. Wehlburg (Eds.), To Improve the Academy: Vol.19. Resources for Faculty, Instructional, and Organizational Development (pp.113-130). Boston, MA: Anker.
  • Heritage, M. (2007). Formative assessment: What do teachers need to know and do? Phi Delta Kappan, 89(2), 18. Retrieved from
  • Missett, T. C., Brunner, M. M., Callahan, C. M., Moon, T. R., & Price Azano, A. (2014). Exploring teacher beliefs and use of acceleration, ability grouping, and formative assessment. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 37(3), 245–268. doi:10.1177/0162353214541326
  • Morville, P. (2005). Ambient findability. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media Inc.
  • Young, J. E. J., & Jackman, M. G.-A. (2014). Formative assessment in the Grenadian lower secondary school: teachers’ perceptions, attitudes and practices. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 21(4), 398–411. doi:10.1080/0969594X.2014.919248
  • Wylie, C., & Lyon, C. (2013, May). Using the Formative Assessment Rubrics, Reflection and Observation Tools to Support Professional Reflection on Practice. Retreived from

LeFebvre Model for Theorizing and Scaffolding

Lefebvre, H. (1992). The Production of Space. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

Other Resources Informing our Work

  • Bennett, R. E. (2011). Formative assessment: A critical review. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy, & Practice, 18(1): 5-25. doi: 10.1080/0969594X.2010.513678
  • Braid, B., Palma de Schrynemakers, G., & Grose, A. W. (2012). Assessing early integrative learning. Peer Review, 13-14(4-1): 12-14. Retrieved from
  • Huber, M. T., & Hutchings, P. (2004). Integrative Learning: Mapping the Terrain. Washington D.C.: Association of American Colleges and Universities. Retrieved from
  • Klein, J. T. (2005). Integrative learning and interdisciplinary studies. Peer Review, 7 (3-4): 8-10. Retrieved from
  • Taylor, S. H. (2011). Engendering habits of mind and heart through integrative learning. About Campus, 16(5): 13-20. doi: 10.1002/abc.20076
  • Yancey, K. B., & Weiser, I. (1997). Introduction. Situating Portfolios: Four Perspectives. Utah State University Press, Logan, Utah: 1-20.