Engaging students with educational theory: portfolios as praxis

Orna Farrell, Dublin City University.

This paper will reflect on my experiences of implementing eportfolio assessment in an undergraduate educational theory module for secondary trainee teachers. I will structure this paper using Rolfe, et. al (2001) reflective model to structure my analysis and critical reflection.

This paper focuses on my experiences designing, teaching and assessing the module HD415 Advanced Education Theory on an undergraduate Teacher Education programme. HD415 was a new 4th year advanced module, which built on an introductory first year educational theory module. The module was designed following Bruner’s (1960) spiral curriculum approach, whereby theories from the sociology, philosophy and psychology of education which were introduced in 1st year, are revisited in fourth year and developed in a more complex fashion. The module aimed to combine education theory and research and apply those ideas to the second level teaching context. I decided to take a portfolio assessment approach for this module as portfolio assessment promotes reflective practice and could support students to apply their knowledge of educational theory with their experiences of teaching practice(Farrell, 2020).

So what?

The portfolio assessment design included three entries submitted every four weeks by students. Each entry was linked to a thematic area, students were given four prompts to respond to and asked to provide evidence to support their reflections. Students were given a choice of written, video or audio portfolio entries following the principles of universal design for learning (Cast, 2022).

At the time of writing, students have completed two portfolio entries. What has struck me after marking and giving feedback on the student portfolios is the idea of praxis.
Arnold and Mundy (2020, p.3) define praxis as “linking theory and practice. It is a complex process that captures the unique experience of the preservice teacher…Praxis by nature involves deep exploration of pedagogical experiences and theory to critique practice”.

I was surprised by the rich reflections created by students that combined their experiences of teaching practice, with their knowledge of educational theory which was supported by research and evidence such as activity ideas, lesson plans, and mind maps. After thinking about their portfolios I realised that many of the students had been engaging in praxis pedagogy which was prompted by the portfolio assessment.

Now what?

My next steps will be to gather student feedback on their learning experiences with the portfolio assessment, with the aim of integrating this feedback into my paper presentation. In addition, I aim to learn more about praxis pedagogy and its relationship with portfolio assessment, with the view of conducting further research.

Arnold, J., Mundy, B. (2020).Praxis pedagogy in teacher education. Smart Learn. Environ. 7, 8 https://doi.org/10.1186/s40561-020-0116-z
Bruner, J. S. (1960). The Process of education. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
CAST (2022) Universal Design for Learning Guidelines.
Farrell, O., (2020). From Portafoglio to Eportfolio: The Evolution of Portfolio in Higher Education. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2020(1), p.19. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/jime.574
Rolfe, G., Freshwater, D. and Jasper, M. (2001). Critical reflection for nursing and the helping professions: a user’s guide, Basingstoke: Palgrave.