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Disciplines & Themes 

  • General Education / Interdisciplinary
  • Portfolio practice

Learning focus:  

  • Reflection and critical thinking
  • Engagement, growth and development
  • Students & faculty

Design focus:

  • eportfolios
  • Formative feedback

Enhancing learning with eportfolios

Portland State University (PSU) is an urban campus located in the heart of downtown Portland. It is one of the largest universities in the state and is Oregon’s most diverse state university, also boasting a large transfer population. In 1994, PSU launched its four-year interdisciplinary general education program, University Studies. From the start, portfolios were seen as a way to enhance student learning and assess the program and PebblePad has been supporting eportfolio practice in this program and across the University since 2015.

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University Studies, Portland State University's (PSU) signature interdisciplinary general education program, spans all four years of the undergraduate experience and combines several high-impact practices. We wanted to deepen engagement and expand the practice of critical reflection through the use of eportfolios among students, faculty, and administrators.



The ‘Expanding Eportfolio Use For Wider Impact’ Ambition 

Following a project in which the team distilled its particular pedagogical “brand” into a vision and mission statement, faculty and administrators recognized an opportunity with this 'refreshed articulation' to explore and expand the practice of critical reflection through the use of eportfolios among the Program’s constituents. Since the founding of the Program in 1994, students in the year-long Freshman Inquiry (FRINQ) have produced portfolios as evidence of their engagement in this course, and these portfolios have been foundational to both integrative student learning and programmatic assessment ever since.


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The vast majority of FRINQ students now produce their portfolios through the use of PebblePad, and faculty, administrators and graduate students from across the University engage with PebblePad during end-of-year assessment processes. With a renewed emphasis on the practice of critical reflection, the team set upon a goal to advance portfolio thinking and integrative learning not just with, for, and among the students, but with, for, and among faculty and administrators, as well.

The Successful Workflow


PSU's adoption of PebblePad allowed for a unified platform that students could use for their eportfolios and provided better systems for tracking student work. Students generally develop the eportfolio throughout the year. They can store their materials in PebblePad, returning to them, redesigning, and sharing them as needed - for example, as they prepare for new experiences (e.g., jobs, internships, or graduate school) or write cover letters or recommendations. The Assessment Engine, ATLAS, makes it possible for faculty to find, track, and revisit students’ work. This scaffolded approach allows faculty to provide feedback throughout the year and helps students build on their thoughts about their own learning. 


A faculty support program called “Cultivating Your Professional Identity” (CYPI) offers faculty across departments an opportunity to develop their identities and aspirations in community with each other. The program includes creation of a professional eportfolio reflective of their professional identities. Through end-of-term written reflections and one-to-one interviews at the end of the program, participants identified the deep value of relating formally and informally with their colleagues in a variety of formats and settings. At the end of the academic year, faculty presented their eportfolios to their colleagues in a celebratory gathering. Many continue to keep up with their eportfolio, and now use PebblePad as the platform for their promotion and annual review files.


Our PebbleVision video shows how PebblePad supports professional storytelling with portfolios.


The PebblePad Difference

The adoption of PebblePad as the campus-wide eportfolio platform has helped streamline the administration of University Studies' assessment processes, leaving more time to focus on the important tasks of analyzing, interpreting, and using assessment data and results. Faculty members experienced deep meaning and value in their engagement with each other using portfolios to tell their professional story. 

PebblePad has helped Portland State University achieve these benefits ...

  • Enabling faculty to review student portfolios and provide feedback in real time.

  • The campus-wide adoption of PebblePad solved some prior ongoing assessment challenges related to access to materials, privacy, and navigation.

  • Students determine how their work is shared and with whom. PebblePad also allows students to access the work they do on the platform after they graduate.

  • Faculty engaged in CYPI reported impactful learning and growth related to their personal, professional and scholarly lives identified through portfolio practice and communicated through the showcase portfolio.

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