October 7, 2008

Providing the Tools to Succeed

Joey Haymaker ’09 writes about his research on the Lafayette World Languages Portfolio Project with Professor Michelle Geoffrion-Vinci

Joey Haymaker ’09 (Hellertown, Pa.), a Spanish and economics & business double major, spent his summer as an EXCEL Scholar working with Michelle Geoffrion-Vinci, associate professor of foreign languages and literatures, on the Lafayette World Languages Portfolio Project.

I must admit when Professor Geoffrion-Vinci first told me about the Lafayette World Languages Portfolio Project, I had trouble imagining exactly what it would look like and how it would function. She explained that this project revolved around ePortfolios.

EPortfolios take the idea of a traditional portfolio (a collection of works by a student) and place it in an electronic format, typically a web site-based design. One of the key aspects of ePortfolios is the stress on student reflection. It allows students to demonstrate skills and abilities to others, such as communicative proficiency and cultural insight, and serves as a digital learning record storing information like OPI (oral proficiency interview) results and Dialang, an evaluation backed by the European Commission.

The project is aimed at showing what students can actually do with a language after completing certain requisites. This is a pivotal tool for the foreign languages and literatures department, which up to this point has only had traditional quantitative testing and may be missing the entire picture of language learning.

The really exciting part of all of this is envisioning how it can be used – as documentation of progress to specific standards, the record of ongoing phases in the overall learning process, or as a showcase of a specific level of learning. This is not even mentioning the manifold of uses for the college community.

Administrators are allowed to gauge how well their language department is performing and what changes, if any, are necessary. Teachers get to see which classes are effective and why. Finally, students have a dynamic, on-going resume which they can easily modify and share with prospective employers or graduate schools. The students also engage in multiple technical literacies and metacognative awareness, where they see and acknowledge how they learn best.

My first assignment for my summer research was to do a review of literature on ePortfolios. I surveyed various articles on the subject, learning about the different concerns, implementation strategies, portfolio forms, and terminology germane to the subject. It was also vital to look at institutions that currently are implementing ePortfolios, of which there are only a handful. Examples of such include Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, Penn State University, and LaGuardia Community College.

Of the small amount of institutions that are even using ePortfolios, it was incredibly exciting to learn that practically none of them were using them in a language department, which meant we were really on the forefront of this type of implementation.

The process gave me insight into my own growth along with strengths and weaknesses that I had not really realized before. After this was completed it was then time to start actually putting the ePortfolio together. It was at this time that the extensive help of Mary Toulouse, director of the Foreign Languages and Literatures Resource Center, proved to be crucial, as she showed me how to use Dreamweaver website creation software to manipulate a template that she had created.

Even though implementation of the ePortfolio is still in its very early stages, it is great to see the interest in the project. We have already been approached by faculty from the English and psychology departments who would like to learn more about it.

I have to say that I couldn’t be happier with the outcome of this summer’s work. Working with Mary Toulouse was immensely educational, and she couldn’t have been more patient. As for working with Professor Geoffrion-Vinci, I can without any hesitation say that she is one of the most dedicated and enthusiastic professors that I have ever met.

Also, as my advisor she is going to help me pursue a Fulbright Scholarship to teach English in Spain and apply for graduate schools in the United States, so that I may eventually become a Spanish professor. I believe that my research has definitely given me an advantage in the application process now, as I can put my portfolio on a CD and send it easily to show my learning and dedication.

  • Foreign Languages and Literatures
  • Undergraduate Research

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