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Encouraging self-directed group learning through an e-portfolio system

Electronic portfolio (e-portfolio) systems are increasingly common at various educational sites, especially at tertiary institutions. As Fitch et al. (2013) pointed out, “portfolios can foster the integration of theory, action, self-reflection, group learning, and assessment” (p.37) to enhance students’ voluntary learning. In many cases, homegrown e-portfolio systems are developed to suit the learner’s needs and teaching context. The current presentation is based on research investigating the value and usefulness of a homegrown e-portfolio project which is aimed to encourage self-directed group learning. The e-portfolio system was designed at a private Japanese university where a range of self-access facilities and ample private and group-study areas are available to all the students. Since continuing individual language learning is often challenging, the project required the students to form a group of four and study both individually and collaboratively for six weeks. After participating in a language learning workshop, these students planned and reflected on their language learning with the purpose of obtaining a higher score on the TOEIC or TOEFL test. Their learning records were kept in the e-portfolio and those who had made entries received feedback from an advisor on a weekly basis. The data gained from the e-portfolio system was complemented with a questionnaire, worksheets for group learning, and the pre and post-sessional TOEIC or TOEFL scores. Interviews were conducted with several students after the project in order to explore their experiences in the e-portfolio project.
The presentation will focus on three areas. The first area of consideration will include an overview of the e-portfolio system. The unique features of this system will be compared to the existing homegrown digital portfolio systems employed at universities with a focus on advising. Then, the presentation will describe the goal and process of the e-portfolio project undertaken at the Japanese university. Also, how the students managed to hold group learning sessions using the provided reflection handouts will be highlighted. Commonly, maintaining students’ motivation is a prominent issue. Thus, influences of group learning on motivation to continue studying and keeping records in the e-portfolio will be discussed. In addition, the contribution of this e-portfolio project to the students’ language learning will be examined. Analyzing both quantitative and qualitative data, this presentation will consider how the group e-portfolio project supported and stimulated students’ self-directed language learning and monitoring of their own progress at the Japanese university. The study will conclude by assessing the overall achievements and drawbacks of the group-based e-portfolio project. Through the presentation, participants will ponder possible ways to deepen students’ self-access learning experiences through an e-portfolio.


Eri Fukuda    
World Language Center
Soka University

Eri Fukuda is an Assistant Lecturer in the World Language Center at Soka University in Japan. She earned her MA in Education from Soka University in 2011. Her research interests include second language writing pedagogy, writing process, and CALL.

Mitsuko Suzuki    
World Language Center
Soka University

Mitsuko Suzuki is an Assistant Lecturer in the World Language Center in Soka University She received her MA in International Language Education: TESOL from Soka University in 2011. Her research interests include language learners’ motivation, professional career development, and CALL.

Shinichi Hashimoto    
Faculty of Informatics and Engineering
The University of Electro-Communications

Shinichi HASHIMOTO is currently a part-time lecturer at The University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo. Born in Japan, but living mostly in the United States, he received his MA in TESOL from Soka University of America in 1997. He has authored and edited several books related to English study and usage for a Japanese audience.

Hironobu Okazaki    
Research and Education Center for Comprehensive Science
Akita Prefectural University

Hironobu OKAZAKI is an associate professor in Research and Education Center for Comprehensive Science at Akita Prefectural University in Japan. He received an MA in English literature from Soka University, Tokyo. In addition to teaching, he has authored several books for Japanese learners of English.


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