DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Intergrative Learning

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Enhancing Inquiry, Evidence-Based Reflection and Integrative Learning with the  Lifelong ePortfolio Process:
The Implementation of Integrative ePortfolios at Stony Brook University


Nancy McCoy Wozniak
Learning Architect and ePortfolio Program Manager
Stony Brook University

Stony Brook University successfully piloted eportfolios in the Fall 2010 Semester and discovered the use facilitated the inquiry process for the students. Integrative ePortfolios have been used successfully over the past three years in colleges and programs such as Writing and Rhetoric, Engineering, Business, Leadership and Service, and Technology Systems Management.  As educators embrace learner-centered course delivery and curriculum design in which the student is an active participant in the instruction, the process of inquiry takes center stage.  The learner-centered educator partners with the students encouraging them to continue their quest for discovery while building knowledge connections to the next levels of learning. The inquiry process is the foundation for high impact learning practices such as first-year experiences, learning communities, capstone projects, internships, and service learning that research has shown to increase student engagement and retention.  Reflection plays a critical role in moving the learning to the next level of inquiry.  In order to move to that level, the reflection must include evidence of learning.  The main outcome for learner-centered instruction is to engage students in the inquiry process and integrate their learning in all areas of their lives. The inquiry process and integrative learning need to become a habit of thought and connection that ignites learning and the construction of knowledge throughout a lifetime.  The Lifelong ePortfolio Process is becoming a recognized method to facilitate inquiry, evidence-based reflection, and integrative learning.  This process helps the student to connect learning with knowledge and develop the habit of  lifelong learning.         

From the moment Stony Brook students take their first steps on campus, they are encouraged to practice inquiry with evidenced-based reflection and integrate learning in their curricular and co-curricular experiences.  Inquiry- based learning strategies that include questioning, investigating, communicating, and reflecting are included in  the learning objective and outcomes of Stony Brook courses and programs.  Faculty collaborate on building inquiry-based and integrative learning experiences into their curriculums.  Integrative  learning is an important goal for undergraduate education.  In a statement on integrative learning, The American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU) and The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (CF) describe integrative learning experience occurring as learners address real-world problems, unscripted and sufficiently broad to require multiple areas of knowledge and multiple modes of inquiry, offering multiple solutions and benefiting from multiple perspectives. (AACU, CF, 2004)  These learning experiences consider the whole student and foster lifelong learning skills.  They engage students in making their own learning connections between their courses, professional career goals, co-curricular activities, campus involvement, community service, job experiences, and personal interests.  The undergraduate integrative learning eportfolios make  the learning visible and facilitate their abilities to make these connections.  

Whether course required or not, every student at Stony Brook is encouraged to create an eportfolio account and own their eportfolios.  The design of the eportfolios is their own and they are allowed to create multiple eportfolios. Students develop their own color schemes and banners.  This enhances the ownership, relatedness, and sustainability of the eportfolio.  ePortfolios are allowed to breath and grow with their learning maturity.   Faculty encourage students to include self-directed artifacts (work and experiences) with those that are required for their course or program.  These are showcase (hybrid learning) eportfolios which combine directed (required) and self-directed (non-required) artifacts that project evidence of the student’s  professional skills and abilities.  A variety of eportfolios for particular intents are maintained by faculty, staff, and students, but showcase eportfolios are the heart of eportfolio use at Stony Brook.  The eportfolio owner can pull certain artifacts from their showcase eportfolio and design another eportfolio for a specific purpose.  For instance, as students approach graduation, they work with the Career Center staff to build a career eportfolio with artifacts that focus on their job searches or admissions to graduate school.  Another example is the use of a specific eportfolio created to demonstrate the learning outcomes in a particular course.  In this instance, the faculty usually design course eportfolio templates. This collection and selection of artifacts between the showcase and topic specific eportfolios are illustrated in the Student-Owned Showcase ePortfolio diagram in Figure 1.   

Figure 1 Student-Owned Showcase ePortfolio




It is important to note that in order to support integrative learning practices, faculty are encouraged to direct students to post required course artifacts and reflections in one undergraduate showcase eportfolio.  

Dr. Gary Halada, Undergraduate Program Director for Materials and Engineering, uses eportfolios in his courses and Nanotechnology Program. He sees the eportfolio process as a way to involve students in the ABET accreditation process.  Involving the students in the accreditation process is key.  Halada partners with his students on instruction and accreditation. He views eportfolios and student outcomes as a solid, practical way to “measure the immeasurable, such as an appreciation for the Field of Engineering and lifelong learning”. Lifelong learning is a listed accreditation criteria for demonstrated student outcomes by ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) - ( i ) a recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in lifelong learning. (ABET, 2012)  Halada encourages his students to add artifacts from their other curricular and co-curricular activities, their accomplishments, and self-directed areas of campus and community involvement.

The following are examples of undergraduate student eportfolios with self-directed artifacts started in Halada’s ESG 100 - Introduction to  Engineering course.

  • Rebecca Nolan, Engineering Science
    Since starting her eportfolio in her ESG 100 course, Rebecca has added her molecular biology research, community service, and her martial arts accomplishments.
  • Angela Hortsman, Engineering Science and Applied Mathematics and Statistics
    Angela continues to use her ESG 100 course eportfolio to document her work in her other Engineering Science courses with her campus and community involvement.  She adds an inspirational reflection piece, Living With a Disability.  
  • Joseph Nowak, Engineering Science
    Joseph started his eportfolio as requirements for his Introduction to Engineering and Intermediate Composition courses.  He has added his aircraft training certification and  evidence of his growing experience with aircraft mechanics.  Joseph reflects on his career goals and love for his profession, “After all these years and the countless number of projects I have worked on, I still love my job; and if you love what you do you will never feel like you have worked a day in your life.”

What is an ePortfolio?  
In an American Society for Engineering Education article, Using Electronic Portfolios in a Large Engineering Program, the authors offer a simple, concise definition. Notice how the portfolio process grows an "e".

A portfolio is a purposeful collection of artifacts to demonstrate effort,

progress and achievement. Within an educational setting a portfolio

can be prepared in the context of a course, a program, or an institution;

the author of the portfolio can be the student, a faculty member, an

administrator, or an organization (depart, program, etc.); and the purpose

of the portfolio may be developmental, evaluative, and/or representative.

With the ever increasing use and advancement of technology, the electronic

portfolio (ePortfolio) is emerging as a viable option to the traditional paper

           (Knott, Wolfe,  Muffo,  Mallikarjunan, Loganathan, Lohani, Paretti, Griffin, Adel , 2005)


The definition de-emphasizes the “e” in ePortfolio and presents the portfolio process. The lower case "e" can be disconcerting for educators, as it puts the focus on technology rather than the process of integrative learning. Looking at eportfolio definitions posted on many college and university websites, the process is termed as Collect, Select, Reflect, and Connect.  Harshdeep Banwait, Mechanical Engineering major and Student ePortfolio Consultant with the Stony Brook Faculty Center, added Project at the end of the sequence - Collect, Select, Reflect, Connect, and Project. He uses his eportfolio to project to future employers his professional skills and abilities gained through his curricular and co-curricular activities and internships.  Harshdeep’s model eportfolio can be viewed at https://stonybrook.digication.com/harshdeep_banwait.

A  Showcase (Integrative) ePortfolio at Stony Brook is a student-owned digital learning venue that promotes authentic learning by allowing students to organize knowledge, document learning evidence and connect the learning to their other courses, campus involvement, service, internships, jobs & personal interests. The eportfolio projects the student’s professional skills and abilities. Throughout each semester the Student ePortfolio Consultants, an eportfolio peer support and review group employed by the Faculty Center, conduct focus groups with campus eportfolio owners and find that preparing for a career and establishing a professional online identity are the main benefits students find for creating and maintaining an eportfolio.

The eportfolio process (Collect, Select, Reflect, Connect, and Project) provides an organized digital thumbprint and timeline of knowing, doing, knowing how you know, and proceeding to the next level of inquiry. It allows the owner to synthesize learning, build knowledge, demonstrate learning connections, and project evidence of professional skills and abilities over a lifetime.

Stony Brook University first piloted eportfolio use in the Fall 2010 Semester with 33 faculty, 400 students in 40 courses and 3 programs. By the end of the Fall 2013 Semester, the program had grown to include 210 faculty, 3050 students in 265 courses and 18 programs using eportfolios. The number of overall student eportfolio owners had grown to over 7000 in our system with more than 9,500 created eportfolios. The Fall 2010 ePortfolio pilot was led by faculty in courses and programs that embraced student-centered learning and recognized the need for a change in teaching strategies and course delivery. The pilot faculty actively engaged their students in the teaching, learning and assessment process through learner-centered activities involving collaborative projects and peer-to-peer feedback with student-owned eportfolios. Stony Brook students began to collect, select, reflect, connect, and project their learned skills and abilities in eportfolios. Many continued after completing their courses requiring eportfolios to add artifacts from their other courses and activities.  These self-directed eportfolio activities demonstrated learning connections and a growing appreciation for lifelong learning.

The following eportfolio provide examples of self- directed activities added to student eportfolios:

  • Dillon Winegar, Business
    Dillon adds his employment, campus involvement, and other course activities to his eportfolio that was created as a requirement for his Leadership and Service internship.  Dillon focuses on projecting his skills and achievements as he begins to build a professional online identity.


  • Suxiao Li, Computer Science
    Suxiao was never required to start a course eportfolio. She is a model example of an independent eportfolio owner.  Suxiao recognizes the value of maintaining an eportfolio for planning and documenting her academic career.   
  • Addie Browning, English and History
    Addie began her eportfolio as a requirement for a Leadership and Service.  She uses her eportfolio to chart her academic career and posts other campus involvements.  Her eportfolio projects her love for photography and community.
  • Jim Yee, Chemistry, Clinical Laboratory Sciences and Chemistry
    As a requirement for a Technology Systems Management, Jim began his eportfolio and continues to use it to chart his academic career towards medical school.
  • Daniel Ahmadizadeh, Business
    Daniel organizes and integrates his curricular and co-curricular experiences throughout his eportfolio.  He is a junior in the College of Business specializing in marketing and finance. He is the founder of the Stony Brook Quidditch team and current head manager of the Stony Brook Men’s Basketball team. Dan is a member of Phi Delta Epsilon and works as a Resident Assistant and Student ePortfolio Consultant.. He also is the Marketing Manager for Studio 360- Architecture and Design.  Daniels diverse involvements, interests and leadership abilities are projected throughout his eportfolio.

Oftentimes, when eportfolio is mentioned, the tool or system takes center stage, causing the users to become frustrated and overwhelmed. There is no real value or benefit for the potential adopter when the tiny “e” is blown out of proportion. “It’s another technology.” “Who needs another technology?” “We have Blackboard.” “It’s Facebook.” “I see no value in social networking activities in my classroom.” “It’s a website.” “I already have my resume post online.” In a recent discussion, Dr. Cynthia Davidson, Emerging Technologies Coordinator and Sr. Lecturer with the Writing and Rhetoric Program, pointed out, “Faculty often feel the tool is redundant because they think the technology used currently in their classroom fits their teaching purposes.”

The Faculty Center, responsible for eportfolio implementation, made the mistake of focusing on the tool when they introduced eportfolios to the Stony Brook campus teaching community. They formed a faculty and staff committee to review eportfolio systems. They didn’t start by introducing the purpose and learning processes facilitated by the use of eportfolios. Lifelong learning wasn’t mentioned. Inquiry, evidenced-based reflection and integrative learning strategies were left off the committee's agenda and out of the discussions. The primary focus was the system.  Consequently, it took time to counter the misconception of eportfolio as another Blackboard, Facebook, or website. An implementation committee was formed with the eportfolio faculty pilots that included the elements of inquiry, evidence-based reflection, and integrative learning in their course designs. The Writing and Rhetoric Program was the pilot’s hub. The faculty were practicing the portfolio process for learning and assessment of composition skills instituted by Dr. Peter Elbow, internationally acclaimed author and former director of the Writing and Rhetoric at Stony Brook University. Supported by Dr. Eugene Hammond, director of Writing and Rhetoric (WRT), Cynthia Davidson, took the lead with transitioning WRT from the use of paper portfolios to the use of Google Docs and eportfolios for peer-to-peer student learning and formative assessment during the term/exit assessment at the end of the course.

Helen Chen, researcher in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the director of eportfolio initiatives in the Office of the Registrar at Stanford University, incorporates the eportfolio process in her learning approach, Folio Thinking.  She points out that eportfolios are more than just a technology: they imply a process of planning, keeping track of, making sense of, and sharing evidence of learning and performance (Chen, 2012).   Folio Thinking makes use of student-owned eportfolios for students to document their learning activities and experiences, and engage in reflective practices.  The learning process centers on a self-coaching learning model which emphasizes learning through experience. Self-coaching involves giving students a set of ideas and a vocabulary to promote informal learning through experience by emphasizing awareness, observation, experimentation, and evaluation as the basic steps to gathering rich lessons from experience (Chen, 2001).  Chen's research has shown that the students were likely to integrate and apply the knowledge gained from their learning activities and reflections captured over time in their owned eportfolios.  ePortfolios were found to nurture and house Folio Thinking, emphasizing student-driven learning through experience.

What is Integrative Learning?   
Education experts often refer to integrative learning as a challenge and one of the most important goals in education. In the AACU Integrative Learning Value Rubric, integrative learning is defined as an understanding and a disposition that a student builds across the curriculum and co-curriculum, from making simple connections among ideas and experiences to synthesizing and transferring learning to new, complex situations within and beyond the campus  (AACU, 2010).   In a professional development workshop presentation, Roanoke College provides participants with an excellent working definition of integrative learning (Roanoke College, 2007).


A system of learning that deliberately makes connections between
classes, fields, and academic and co-curricular life, with the end goal
being the development of students who encounter new challenges
and new knowledge in a productive manner.

Dr. Melissa Peet,  Academic Director for the Integrative Learning and MPortfolio Initiative at the University of Michigan, conducts research on how students integrate tacit (informal, non structured) and explicit (formal, structured) knowledge with learning to build leadership abilities and innovative skills.  She inspires students to become agents of change and to know they can change the world.  Peet has developed a student-centered integrative learning pedagogy model known as the Integrative Knowledge Portfolio Process Model (IKPP).  The purpose of IKPP is to facilitate learners’ in identifying, integrating, and synthesizing their emergent knowledge, skills and identities over time, across contexts and in relation to others (Peet, Lonn, Gurin, Boyer, Matney, Marra, Taylor, Daley, 2010).   IKPP guides students with integrating, connecting, and synthesizing their learning experiences by identifying six dimensions of integrative knowledge and learning:

1. Identify, demonstrate and adapt knowledge gained within/across different
contexts (i.e., the ability to recognize the tacit and explicit

knowledge gained in specific learning experiences and the capacity to adapt that

knowledge to new situations);

2. Adapt to differences in order to create solutions (i.e., the ability to identify and
adapt to different people, situations, etc., while working with others to create
positive change);

3. Understand and direct oneself as a learner (i.e., the ability to identify one’s prior knowledge, recognize one’s strengths and gaps as a

learner, and know how one is motivated to learn);

4. Become a reflexive, accountable and relational learner (i.e., the ability to reflect on one’s practices and clarify expectations within oneself while also seeking feedback
from others);

5. Identify and discern one’s own and others' perspectives (i.e., the ability to
recognize the limitations of one’s perspective and seek out

and value the perspectives of others); and

6. Develop a professional digital identity (i.e., the ability to imagine how one will use current knowledge and skills in future roles and how one will create an intentional digital identity)  ( 2010).

Integrative Learning ePortfolios are used to facilitate the integrative learning process as students connect and make meaning of the knowledge and skills gained from their life experiences. The IKPP Learning Model depicts conscious and unconscious learning as lifelong and life-wide experiences throughout life.  In her research, Peet demonstrates that in order to truly integrate their learning, students must first learn how to identify and demonstrate the tacit knowledge (the unconscious and informal ways of knowing people develop from informal learning experiences) they’ve gained from previous experiences, and connect it to the explicit knowledge (the formal concepts, ideas and methods learned through formal education) they develop in their academic courses (2010).  Figure 2 illustrates the Integrative Knowledge Portfolio Process.

Figure 2

Peet’s learning model is a working example of applied integrative learning with eportfolio use.  Her Generative Knowledge Interviewing workshops are relevant to today’s pedagogical practices and valued by learner-centered educators.

Integrative learning strategies at Stony Brook University involve the faculty and staff working as teams to engage students in making learning connections with their courses, professional career goals, co-curricular activities, campus involvement, community service, jobs and personal interests.  Strategies include  high impact first-year experiences, collaborative capstone projects, experiential learning and service activities, and multimodal media presentations and reflections such as digital stories and podcasts.  Students also partner with faculty on the development of integrative learning experiences.  Many of the model eportfolios featured in the Spotlight on ePortfolios website included student, self-directed integrative learning experiences encouraged by faculty and staff.  The website can be viewed at https://stonybrook.digication.com/stony_brook_eportfolio_showcase.


What is lifelong learning?  
Darren Cambridge, Senior Consultant, Education Technology and Online Communities of Practice at American Institutes for Research, defines lifelong learning as an ongoing process of developing knowledge, skills, and strategies; putting capabilities and self-understanding into action; and, thereby, establishing an identity. (Cambridge, 2010)  Success in life depends on having a sense of self, understanding who we are and knowing how we build knowledge and connect to our academic, professional, community and personal lives.    

The AACU Foundations and Skills for Lifelong Learning Value Rubric categorize curiosity, initiative, independence, transfer and reflection as the key skills for lifelong learning and can be retrieved at http://www.aacu.org/value/rubrics/pdf/LifelongLearning.pdf (ACCU, 2010).  Integrative Learning Value rubric, categorizes the objectives of the integrative learning process as:

  1. Connections to Experience - Connects relevant experience and academic knowledge.
  2.  Connections to Discipline - Sees (makes) connections across disciplines, perspectives.
  3. Transfer -  Adapts and applies skills, abilities, theories, or methodologies gained in one situation to new situations.
  4.  Integrated Communication
  5. Reflection and Self-Assessment - Demonstrates a developing sense of self as a
    learner, building on prior experiences to respond to new and challenging contexts (may be evident in self-assessment, reflective, or creative work);  (2010).

Incorporating the integrative learning and lifelong learning objectives in course and program curriculums enhance successful learning outcomes for the students, program and institution and instill lifelong learning habits.   

Why ePortfolio?  
In the mid 1990s, Robert Barr and John Tagg wrote about a paradigm shift from teaching to learning taking place in education. In their article, A New Paradigm for Undergraduate Education, they clearly illustrated this shift from the teacher-centered Instruction Paradigm to the student-centered Learning Paradigm.  The Instruction Paradigm is concerned with teaching productivity while the Learning Paradigm centers on learning productivity.

The main focus for the Learning Paradigm is to involve students in the teaching and learning process and produce learning outcomes more efficiently. With the shift, the controlled, competitive, individualistic instruction classroom becomes a collaborative, cooperative, supportive learning environment that fosters inquiry, reflection and higher order cognitive skills. In this rich learning environment, the integrative eportfolio process emerges as a method to produce, document and connect the learning. It is clear how the integrative eportfolio learning process (Collect, Select, Reflect, Connect and Project) enriches the mission and purposes of the Learning Paradigm (Barr & Tagg, 1995) to

  • produce learning,
  • elicit students discovery and construction of knowledge,
  • create powerful learning environments,
  • improve the quality of learning, and
  • achieve success for a diverse population of students.

As educators embrace the learning goals, objectives and practices of the Learning Paradigm, eportfolio use will grow and play a major role in the teaching and learning culture.

The ePortfolio process helps us as lifelong learners to integrate learning experiences, build knowledge and make connections between our academic, professional, community, and personal lives.  When we make these connections, we learn how we learn and we know how we know.  The learning experiences are authentic.  ePortfolio is the tool that helps us to connect and document the evidence of our expanding knowledge and to realize our diverse directions of learning throughout our lifetime.

The Stony Brook University students in Dr. Cathleen Rowley's Intermediate Composition class were asked if they knew about eportfolios.  Most of the students had completed a paper portfolio for their writing classes in high school.  The students came to the collective conclusion that portfolios are journals for reading and writing assignments compiled in Word documents and placed in a binder.  They were asked where they kept their paper portfolios.  Some said their teachers kept them and others had no idea where they had ended up.  One student replied, "It's on my bookshelf in my bedroom at home.  I never look at it.  It's all yellow and dusty."  They then were asked to define an eportfolio and another student replied,  

"An eportfolio is a portfolio that doesn't gather dust."

How true.  A paper portfolio sits on a shelf and gathers dust.  An eportfolio is active and alive.  It  allows the owner to collect learning experiences and select evidence of gained professional skills and abilities over a lifetime.  Examples of  WRT eportfolios are listed below.  Notice how the students are encouraged to add their other courses, co-curricular activities, job performances, community service involvements and personal interests.  Other faculty requiring eportfolio use in their courses have the students continue with their eportfolios created in other courses.  This collaboration between the faculty and programs supports integrative learning and the students maintain eportfolios that project their successful undergraduate experience.  It should be noted that Cathleen Rowley maintains her own teaching eportfolio and uses it as an example when introducing the eportfolio requirement in her classes.  Her students find purpose in eportfolio use after viewing hers and one commented, “if faculty don’t use eportfolios for lifelong learning, why should we?” Rowley’s eportfolio can be viewed at https://stonybrook.digication.com/cathleen_rowley . 

These are examples of required WRT 102 - Intermediate Composition eportfolios supporting integrative learning:

  • Aaron Doucett - Marine and Atmospheric Sciences
    Aaron has added other courses to his eportfolio. In his About Me section, he illustrates his multifaceted interests and strengths as he works toward building a career in meteorology.
  • Ryan Earle Ong - Business
    Ryan’s required writing eportfolio expanded into an exemplary undergraduate eportfolio that demonstrates the important role eportfolio use plays in integrative learning strategies.  Ryan uses multimedia to enhance his directed and self-directed eportfolio activities.   
  • Asaf Harari, Engineering Science and Business
    Asaf started his eportfolio as requirements for his WRT 102 and ESG 100 courses.  He brings out another dimension of his self as he adds his participation in a Stony Brook co-ed a cappella group.  As an Engineering Science major, he explains how important it was for him to become involved with the Arts programs at Stony Brook.
  • Linda Milano, Business
    Linda is a Business major specializing in Marketing with a minor in Journalism. She plays the clarinet in the Spirit of Stony Brook Marching Band and is a teaching assistant in the Honors Business Program.  Linda also is a Student ePortfolio Consultant and responsible for promoting eportfolio use in the College of Business.  She uses her eportfolio to integrate her curricular and co-curricular activities and she synthesizes her learning experiences through evidenced-based reflection.


An ePortfolio allows the owner to collect learning experiences and select evidence of gained professional skills and abilities over a lifetime is a valid description, but to stop there would imply that an eportfolio serves the same purpose as an electronic resume, scrapbook or journal.

What is the relationship between inquiry and reflection?  
Inquiry is a continuous cycle of learning that involves questioning, investigating, analyzing, communicating, and reflecting on the knowledge gained.  Reflecting on the evidence and conclusion produces more questions and the cycle of learning and discovery continues.  Reflection connects the components of the inquiry cycle and serves as the catalyst to move to the next level of learning and discovery.   Information is transformed to knowledge and fragmented pieces of knowledge are connected through reflection.  ePortfolios help create an accessible online workspace for students and instructors to collaborate on inquiry-based projects and activities.  The eportfolio also provides the students with an integrative learning space to question, investigate, analyze, communicate and reflect on their life experiences and connect the knowledge.  This is an important reason for including reflection with artifacts posted in eportfolios.

In order for reflection to be the adhesive for building knowledge and clearing pathways to higher levels of learning, it has to produce evidence of the learning.  Dr. Trent Batson, Executive Director of  the Association for Authentic, Experiential, and Evidence-Based Learning (AAEEBL), emphasized this point in his Campus Technology article, Reviewers Unhappy with Portfolio "Stuff" Demand Evidence.  He refers to an eportfolio without demonstrated evidence-based learning examples and reflection as a collection of "stuff" (Batson, 2010),

Simply collecting a lot of “stuff” and showing it on a Web page does

not support any kind of claim other than that you’ve done the work

and, presumably, the instructor has accepted your work. When students

make a claim--for a grade on an assignment, a grade in a course, for

a capstone requirement, for graduation, or for career purposes--they

must also work within an evidence structure/process of some sort that

is just as transparent as the scientific or legal process for using evidence.  

Batson’s article emphasizes the need for a structured process for posted artifacts, directed and self-directed, that provides evidence of learning and experience through inquiry and reflection.  For program and institutional use the eportfolio process must take into consideration "the benefit of students, faculty (for review purposes), and reviewers and assessors, as well as for accreditation review, institutional curriculum review, institutional transformation, and for the improvement of learning." (2010). 

When using eportfolios for learning and outcomes assessment it is essential to include inquiry and evidence-based reflection as structured components of the eportfolio process.  Inquiry must  be based on more than assumptions and reflection must move beyond feelings of what of the learning experience.  It is essential that students be given prompts to ignite inquiry and help them analyze and synthesize the learning experience in their reflections.  The prompts should be discipline-specific, yet offer possibility for interdisciplinary connects, as well as connection to other facets of the student’s life. Students must move beyond how much they liked the assignment to the point of producing and realizing the evidence, generation of new ideas, formation of opinions and changes in perspectives to confirm and document personal understanding of the learning experience and applied knowledge.

In their article, Inquiry in Higher Education: Reflections and Directions on Course Design and Teaching Methods, a McMaster University team of writing faculty used a diagram to illustrate the inquiry process used in their Inquiry course.  The article demonstrates their successful inquiry strategies using prompts and self-assessment assignments to help the students develop questions of inquiry and delve deep into the exploration and analysis of their chosen topics as they work collaboratively in small groups to come to a conclusion and present their findings.  Reflection enhanced by a final self-assessment checklist  brings about new questions and the students continue on to the next level of inquiry.  The process is circular to represent the continuing nature of inquiry which ends in some answers, enhanced understanding, but always more questions (Justice, Rice, Warry, Inglis, Miller, Sammon, 2006).

Figure 3  

The McMasters faculty identify the progressive components of their inquiry assignment, developing a good question, determining the information needed, assessing information effectively and efficiently, critically evaluating the information and it’s sources, synthesizing into a coherent whole, communicating the product and process of inquiry effectively, and evaluating success at progressing through the inquiry process (2006).  Prompts are used at each stage. Self-Assessment exercises launch and complete of the inquiry projects.  
When working with faculty and students on the design and maintenance of integrative eportfolios used to document learning, the Faculty Center staff emphasizes inquiry and reflection.  The use of inquiry and reflection prompts are encouraged.  Stony Brook faculty and  students are provided support materials during training sessions.  The What Makes It Model document serves as a checklist for eportfolio design and posting artifacts with evidenced -reflection.  The document can be viewed at https://stonybrook.digication.com/stony_brook_eportfolio_showcase/What_Makes_it_Model1.  


Included in the What Makes it Model document are prompts to guide students with inquiry and evidence-based reflection.  The prompts can be modified for discipline specific use to help students produce evidence of their learning and acquired skills in their descriptions, summaries and reflections accompanying their artifacts:


  1. What skills or abilities did you learn from this experience and how are you able to apply them to other courses and areas of involvement in your life (academic, career, service, campus, personal interests)?
  2. What about this assignment was most useful to you? Can you see a relationship to what you've learned to your other courses or activities in your academic and  professional careers?
  3. How would you describe this assignment to your friends? How would you describe it to a future employer?
  4. What areas and abilities in your life were strengthened by this assignment.
  5. List the ways you have grown, professionally, as a result of this assignment.
  6. What problems did you encounter and how did you solve them?
  7. What risks did you take and what did you discover about yourself?
  8. What personal strengths and abilities did you discover and demonstrate by doing this assignment?
  9. If you had it to do all over again, would you?  Why?  What would you change?
  10. How did this experience prepare you for your professional career and/or graduate school? How did it prepare you for life?


WRT faculty have long used prompts to help students compose reflective “cover memos” that explain how they have grown as writers during the course of the semester and how their writing inclusions provide evidence of learning outcomes delineated on a checklist in specific ways, the same checklist used to evaluate portfolio work by faculty assessors at the end of the semester.  As previously mentioned, this portfolio practice for learning and assessment of composition skills began under the direction of Peter Elbow.  Biology major, Bryan Szeglin’s WRT 102  eportfolio is a model example of the portfolio learning and assessment model -  https://stonybrook.digication.com/bryanszeglin.

Another good example of the inquiry process and reflection guided with prompts is Cynthia Davidson’s personal writing and emerging media courses that include digital stories and eportfolios.  The guided inquiry is used to facilitate the composition process and, at the same time,  integrative learning skills are enhanced by her use of peer support groups in brainstorm sessions.   Integrative learning skills also are strengthened by the multimodul reflection experience of producing a digital stories and the design of the eportfolio.  Davidson provides prompts to guide the students through the process.  These are examples of the guiding prompts:


  • Start by thinking of a question or a statement that you would like to explore for your final project, something in which you have a personal stake:  for example, how your life or career goals intersect with issues of new media and technology.
  • Come to class prepared with an idea; post a one-page brainstorm in Discussion Board/Google Docs and take it from there.
  • Look over your past writing for the digital story script.  Look over all your mini-essays; you might find that one of your mini-essays could be transmuted into the perfect digital narrative.
  • The final paper may be a retelling or expansion of the digital story, or it
    may be more tangential to it…it is up to you how you frame the relationship.

These creative integrative eportfolios created in Davidson’s courses are model examples of inquiry-based learning and the use multimodal reflection to strengthen integrative learning skills:


  • Joseph Cavera, Environmental Studies
    Joseph is an Environmental Studies major pursuing minors in Ecosystems and Human Impact and Writing.  He uses his eportfolio to showcase is superb creative thinking and writing abilities.
  • Vishwaja Muppa
    Vishwaja’s digital story from her personal writing course is a creative, model example of digital storytelling.  When asked the value of an eportfolio, Vishwaja replied with thought-provoking answer, “An eportfolio allows me to leave a legacy so future generations can understand who I was.”  Vishwaja left a legacy with her eporttfolio.  We now include a "What's Your Legacy?" exercise in our eportfolio training sessions.

 Davidson maintains her own teaching eportfolio that serves as an example to her students. Her eportfolio can be viewed at https://stonybrook.digication.com/cdavidson.

Inquiry and Evidence-Based Reflection in Biomedical Senior Design ePortfolios
The Inquiry process with evidence-based reflection is crucial in Biomedical Engineering.  Stony Brook Biomedical Engineering students are required to complete a senior design project that includes identifying the need, diagramming and analyzing the design, testing and developing a business plan and presentation to prospective venture capitalist.  The students work in teams and are required to include weekly journals and individual reflections at the completion of the course.  Dr. Jonathan Liu, Assistant Professor, Biomedical Engineering lays out his syllabus with inquiry prompts throughout the Senior Design course eportfolio template.  The eportfolio template with inquiry and reflection prompts direct the students in a concise, organized manner. He encourages the students to enhance their artifacts with multimedia.  When asked the benefits of using an eportfolio for their design projects, students remarked on how it organizes their thoughts and design progression.  They also found the eportfolio provided a collaborative workspace that requires less face-to-face time. 

Jonathan Liu's created his course Biomedical Engineering Template to lead the students through the inquiry and design processes, https://stonybrook.digication.com/senior_biodesign_template2. He maintains his own eportfolio that serves as an example to his students, https://stonybrook.digication.com/liu.

The Stony Brook Biomedical Engineering Senior Design ePortfolios have been viewed globally as model examples of eportfolios used to facilitate inquiry and invention:


  • Non Electric Blood Pressure Assist Device
    This model project eportfolio is a model example of critical and creative thinking, collaboration, and project management laid out on the digital pages of an eportfolio. The eportfolio has been viewed globally in training presentations on eportfolio use.

The Stony Brook eportfolio examples clearly demonstrates and organizes the layers of inquiry the students employ with their projects.  The integrative eportfolio process stimulates inquiry.  Collect, Select, Reflect, Connect, Project, and What’s Next would be a more accurate description of this process.  

The Student’s Perspective of Reflection.  
In the semester eportfolio focus groups conducted by the Student ePortfolio Consultants, students comment favorably on including evidenced-based reflection in their eportfolios.  Many have stated that reflection helps provide direction for course and career planning.  One student commented on how reflection helps her to make sense of her academic pursuits and reevaluate her career goals.  

Computer Science major, Ansue Jacob, spoke on the value of reflection in her eportfolio, “Reflecting on what you have done will inspire you to write more on what you have learned from your projects by making you think of things that you did not think of previously. “  Ansue  is a recent Stony Brook graduate and continues her eportfolio as a graduate student at Drexel University,  https://stonybrook.digication.com/ansuejacob.


Eda Gimenez, Environmental Engineering major, wrote in her eportfolio an interesting explanation on the importance of reflection in life.


You reflect to learn and connect the importance of everything you’ve done and learned.  From studying your coursework to applying the learning to your  career and other activities outside the classroom,  reflecting allows you to develop and connect all areas of your life.  Being conscious through reflection of all that is around you helps you realize your  goals and  direction in this world.  Reflecting takes a broad concept like life and allows you to break  it down in your own perspective with your own strengths so  that you can succeed in life and be an agent of positive change in this world.  - Eda Gimenez


Eda’s showcase eportfolio can be viewed at https://stonybrook.digication.com/egimenez.  

Marine Science major, Emily Madsen, didn’t care for the eportfolio requirement in her Leadership and Service course.  She considered reflection a tedious waste of time.  Her opinion soon changed as she reviewed her eportfolio.



I had a very low opinion of the ePortfolio at the onset of this course. In high school, I always despised reflecting on my work--the material covered in my high school classes tended to be rather simple and any moderately extensive reflection, in my opinion, ended up being mostly busy work. However, I did see the value of having a digital chronology of my classes and decided to give it a go. As the material got increasingly difficult in my classes, I found the ePortfolio to be an incredibly useful organizational tool. At the end of the year, I found that looking over the work and reflections in my ePortfolio for typos and grammatical errors not only helped me remember what I enjoyed about the class, but also how the concepts were divided up--which helped me formulate a study schedule for my final exams.  -Emily Madsen

Emily’s eportfolio has been used globally as a model example of self-directed use for academic and career planning.  She is creating her professional online identity through her creative approach to building her resume.  Her eportfolio can be viewed at https://stonybrook.digication.com/emily_madsen 


Others examples of building a professional online identity with eportfolios are listed below:



  • Sarah Kardasz, Technology Systems Management, Masters of Science
    Sarah uses her eportfolio to document and integrate her graduate courses and work. She emphasizes her career, accomplishments, and professional development.  Her goal is to secure a career in instructional design.  Sarah’s eportfolio gives evidence of her skills and abilities as an educator, and her instructional design talents.
  • Chloe Bader - Stony Brook Graduate in Social Welfare and Graduate Student in New York University’s Social Work Master’s Program
    Chloe uses her eportfolio to project her professional skills and abilities, achievements, community service, and awards.  As she begins her graduate studies in Social Work at New York University she continues to build and project her professional identity and with her eportfolio.
  • Rachel Koeth, Bassoon Performance, Doctor of Musical Arts degree
    Rachel is pursuing her doctorial studies in Musical Arts and uses her eportfolio to document her performances and orchestra involvements.  She teaches
     individual performance recitations and large lecture Introduction to the Musical Arts
     courses at Stony Brook.  Rachel finds it important to develop her teaching philosophy and document her teaching experience in her eportfolio.
  • Junaid Rajani, Biochemistry
    Junaid’s career goal is to be a periodontist.  His undergraduate eportfolio showcase his leadership abilities and skills in his curricular and co-curricular activities.  Junaid
    gives evidence of his abilities to help people through his work as a teaching assistant and eportfolio consultant.  His passion for teaching and his natural abilities as an educator are accentuated in his eportfolio along with his natural abilities as an educator.

As Stony Brook students take ownership of learning how to learn and knowing how to know facilitated by the integrative eportfolio process, eportfolio use will continue to grow.  ePortfolios provide  digital workspaces for students to integrate their learning and develop habits of inquiry, evidenced-based reflection, and lifelong learning.  Faculty and student focus group results have shown that eportfolios have been used successfully to stimulate and organize the inquiry process and help students integrate their learning.  Published results will be available after the end of the 2012-13 Academic Year.  As Stony Brook faculty continue to partner on high impact and integrative learning strategies, integrative eportfolios will play a leading role in multidisciplinary course and program design.  


Inquiry and evidenced-based reflection are the foundations of teaching and learning at Stony Brook.  The integrative eportfolio process (Collect, Select, Reflect, Connect, Project, and What’s Next) helps to organize and move the cycle of inquiry.  Students have discovered the academic and professional benefits of demonstrating their inquiry and evidenced - based reflective skills in their integrative, showcase eportfolios. The showcase eportfolio is their digital venue and workspace for highlighting and building evidence of their abilities to integrate learning experiences, identify, connect, synthesize and demonstrate the knowledge and skills they are gaining from all areas of life. Model examples of integrative, showcase eportfolios can be viewed at https://stonybrook.digication.com/stony_brook_eportfolio_showcase.  ePortfolios will continue to grow at Stony Brook and become a dynamic part of the campus teaching and learning culture as students collect, select, reflect, connect, and project evidence of learning and continue on to discover what’s next throughout a lifetime of learning..



Nancy McCoy Wozniak is the Learning Architect and ePortfolio Program Manager in the Faculty Center, Teaching Learning, and Technology at Stony Brook University.  Her integrative showcase eportfolio can be viewed at https://stonybrook.digication.com/nancywozniak.





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Acknowledgements:  A special thanks to Dr. Cynthia Davidson, Dr. Patricia Aceves and Dr. Lori Scarlatos for guiding me through the inquiry process with this article.  My gratitude to Dr. Cynthia Davidson, Dr. Cathleen Rowley, Dr. Jonathan Liu and Dr. Gary Halada for their model, learner-centered eportfolio use that has inspired faculty at Stony Brook and other colleges and universities around the world.  A heartfelt thank you and my gratitude to our agents of change, the Student ePortfolio Consultants Rachel Koeth, Harshdeep Banwait, Linda Milano, Emily Madsen, Junaid Rajani, Dillon Winegar, Alicia Elliott, Daniel Ahmadizadeh, Eda Gimenez, Ansue Jacob, Ahrum Kim, Paris Lingard, and Sourav Tamang., the driving force for self-directed inquiry, evidenced-reflection, and integrative learning with eportfolios at Stony Brook University.  My enduring gratitude to Amanda Gales Sfiligoj, my daughter and partner in promoting diverse learning opportunities and respect for all students.

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.