Can portfolio pedagogy be shaken by AI?

By Prof. Patsie Polly, Faculty of Medicine & Health, UNSW Sydney and A/Prof. Kate Coleman, Faculty of Education, University of Melbourne

Published 21 June 2024

Collaborators Patsie and Kate reflect on the interplay of ePortfolios and AI, and importantly, on the role of pedagogy in grounding this high-impact practice in the face of futuristic technologies.

Student deep thinking UNSW

There is a lot of discussion around AI and Academic Integrity in higher education at the moment. However, let’s try and shift the conversation towards upskilling and embedding skills in using AI in deep learning and teaching, rather than lingering in the deficit behavioural model.

We agree that Academic Integrity is:

‘the expectation that teachers, students, researchers and all members of the academic community act with: honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility.’ (TEQSA, 2022)

This is the true sense of what universities are good at doing. University teaching is founded on enabling students to develop the skills and experience in how to think critically, evaluate information, synthesise evidence to enable deep understanding and creatively examine issues with multiple disciplinary perspectives.

This is learning in higher education.

It’s a transformative life experience, not a mere mechanism for skills development. The critical word here is ‘deep’.

Deep understanding, deep interrogation of discipline content, deep contemplation, deep engagement in authentic and speculative thinking, deep linkage of ideas, deep doing.

As ePortfolio practitioners with focus on pedagogy, introduction of the ‘e’ has been in our education DNA for a while. The ‘e’ is the electronic part of the ePortfolio... But let’s not kid ourselves, ‘Portfolio’ pedagogy has been around for a long time.

Portfolio-based teaching enables the creation, collection, and reflection of artefacts curated to showcase evidence of learning in a formative cycle that keeps learning real, integrative and authentic.

It is a high-impact practice in higher education. The 'e' in ePortfolio is something we have learned to work with and open up in terms of its meaning. In addition to 'e' for electronic, it could stand for terms such as: evidence, examination, enrichment, experimental, entrepreneurial, ethnographical, experiential, educational ePortfolios. For us, the ‘e’ can be representative of the technology, the tool, the pedagogical approach or the platform; it can mean flexibility in how we teach and assess and offer us a way to teach multiliteracies through multimodality.

ePortfolio practitioners play with tools as we get to know their fit and functionality before we integrate them into our learning ecologies.

We need to ensure that our pedagogies and technologies align. Indeed, most of us have used more than one tool over the years. As ePortfolio thinkers, we tend to ask for more than what the tool can often offer.

This is because pedagogy comes first.

We see learning as a series of networked processes - a type of tango that has a forward cross step and backward cross step. When we return to the core issue of this high-impact practice, we cannot ignore the transformative nature of ePortfolio in creating habits of mind.

Habits such as metacognition, creative thinking, and gathering and analysing data can shift our behaviours; this is why it is deep learning with portfolios being transformative - we cut across learning thresholds.

The shift in learner doing through transaction (teach, learn, examine), to doing in relation requires a shift in education, toward slow scholarly work and a pedagogy of ‘being-with’. Reflection, sense-of-self as learner, self-efficacy, autonomy and agency are developed over time; portfolio teaching and learning is like training for a marathon.

It’s not a sprint to the finish line, it is long distance training for deep learning.

GenAI can support reflection, we have seen many use cases in the last year, from collaborative uses for seeing insights in writing to chatbots for check-ins. Reflection bots are being used to support students in reflective practice, and these are important prompts for some learners that can scaffold reflective practice processes and ensure we are being responsive to inclusions for equity. Support for summative assessment and feedback practices could be improved with AI within ePortfolios.

We can do this already through prompting feedback on assessment design and rubric standards with the support of GenAI. Learners can develop a UX plan to guide their curation of artefacts with ChatGPT.

Like all aspects of education, ePortfolio pedagogy can be shaken by AI – if we let it rock us.

What this critical juncture in education might offer us is time for thinking how pedagogical agents within ePortfolios serve a role in providing timely assistance and feedback.

And more importantly, how Portfolio platforms provide learners a safe space for them to make sense of their learning through curating and showcasing their knowledge, as well as forming their identity.



Reading this on a mobile? Scroll down to learn about the authors.

Want to see more?

  • Webinar: AAEEBL (2024, May 31). AI-supported observation of e-portfolios: AI for portfolio feedback and assessment.
  • Perspective Paper: Pebble Pad (2023, Sep 6). Redesigning Assessment Practices in an AI World.
  • Blog: Sankey, M. (2024, Feb 14). Generative AI And ePortfolio For Program-Wide Assessment.

This article is part of the Scientia Education Academy (SEA) blog series. Learn more about the SEA below.

Scientia Education Academy Blog Series

The UNSW Scientia Education Academy (SEA) recognises our most outstanding educators for their leadership and contributions to enriching education, and gives them a platform to showcase and facilitate excellence in teaching at UNSW and beyond. Learn more about UNSW Scientia Education Academy here.


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