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From transformation to assessment: development of academic identity, agency, and awareness of symbolic capital through curriculum designed for the electronic portfolio medium.
To address concerns related to student success, more and more institutions of higher education are using electronic portfolios to assess student development. Institutions using ePortfolios focus on the use of the medium as a summative tool, and though some institutions are involved in discussions regarding student transformation, there is little discussion regarding curriculum crafted to transform student thinking. This study used a concurrent triangulation mixed-methods research design to determine the impact of a dedicated curriculum identified as a “folio curriculum” on the development of a type of higher order thinking within freshman seminar students which the author labels “folio thinking,” as well as predictors of student success to include academic self-confidence, academic identity, and internal locus of control. The quantitative data indicated no effect on student thinking over the 16-week course. The qualitative data indicated that there was a direct and positive relationship between the dedicated folio curriculum and development of dimensions of folio thinking. The qualitative data also revealed a direct and positive relationship between two dimensions of folio thinking specifically academic achievement motivation and self-efficacy, and academic self-confidence, academic identity, and internal locus of control within the research subjects. Findings from this study are important in the arena of higher education as instructors, leaders, and policy-makers can use them to facilitate student success. Stakeholders providing services to students should remember that an important function of college is the building of human capital by students, the development of awareness of such capital, and how to spend it. Stakeholders need to dedicate resources to this end. This study provided evidence that a curriculum dedicated to the development of folio thinking using the ePortfolio medium can facilitate the building of human capital by students and the awareness of that capital. Awareness by students of the capital they hold is an influencing variable to academic self-confidence and internal locus of control, which have been linked to student success. Future studies should use larger samples for the quantitative data, and qualitative data should be gathered to continue development of an understanding regarding the effect of folio curriculum on folio thinking, and the effects of folio thinking on academic self-confidence, locus of control, and subsequent influence on student success. Results of this study can also be used to begin a discussion about implementation of folio curriculum at earlier stages of development including P-12, and other courses in higher education. With appropriate scaffolding this curriculum can provide for the development of student thinking, and discovery of the capital that is held by students, leading to higher levels of student success.