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It is broadly recognised that professional development (PD) to enhance academic practice amongst those who teach in Higher Education (HE) encompasses a range of approaches; while there is an established culture of accredited PD provision – particularly for early-career academics – literature points to a preference among more established faculty for non-accredited or informal PD activities such as workshops, projects, conferences, professional dialogue, experimental approaches or activities related to the scholarship of teaching and learning (Ashgar and Pilkington 2018; Kálmán et al. 2019; Spowart et al. 2017). The provision of accredited PD is now commonplace in the Irish context and many Irish HE Institutions offer programmes in academic practice at Graduate Certificate, Diploma or Masters Level (Maguire et al. 2017; Maguire et al. 2015). However, evidence also points to a long-standing culture of engagement in in- and non-formal PD activities among Irish HE teachers (Kenny et al. 2015). This has been recognised in the Irish National Professional Development Framework which is underpinned by an ‘acknowledgement of the spectrum of activities that could be considered under the umbrella of PD’ (National Forum 2016a; National Forum 2016b). Thus, a considerable amount of the professional learning that is undertaken to enhance academic practice takes place through experiential or work-based practices including communities of practice, conversations with colleagues and practice-based innovations (Knight et al. 2006; Nerantzi 2015; Warhurst 2008).
Furthermore, there is a growing body of literature highlighting the use of portfolios to support academic professional learning activities and reflective practice in Higher Education (Costelloe et al. 2019; Hamilton 2018; Hoekstra and Crocker 2015; O'Farrell 2007; Pelger and Larsson 2018). Described as ‘a purposeful collection of evidence, consisting of descriptions, documents and examples of what is good teaching for the teacher’ (de Rijdt et al. 2006, p.1086), portfolios are being used in multiple ways to support PD: to provide evidence of a quality approach to professional development, to document teaching practices for the purposes of promotion, to showcase and reflect on academic practice and to provide evidence of engagement with PD activities. An eportfolio adds an extra dimension to the affordances of a more traditional portfolio through the potential inclusion of multimedia artefacts such as audio, video and text to capture, share and reflect on academic practice.
Bearing in mind the Irish HE context and the recent introduction of the National Professional Development Framework, this paper will explore the potential of eportfolios – and specifically digital teaching or professional practice portfolios – to support, document and evidence the wealth of non-accredited and in/non-formal professional learning undertaken by HE teachers to enhance academic practice. Drawing on semi-structured interviews carried out with Irish HE teachers in three institutions in the Mid-West region, this paper will consider how digital teaching portfolios offer a space to capture, evidence, reflect on and share the wealth of practice-based and in/non-formal PD in which HE teachers engage.
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