Saturday 7 September 2013

Four Learners Responses to an Emergent ‘Visual Arts Showcase e-Portfolio' Meta-Genre

Written for Visual Arts educators and researchers interested in the electronic learning portfolio design choices that learners make.

I presented at the South African Visual Arts Conference 2013 today on a cross-section of four independent school Visual Arts learners' e-portfolio design choices. Since I spoke in its pedagogical stream', I chose to prepare a paper that focused on learners' design choices and how they varied in reflecting different aspects of the e-portfolio's significance to the learners. This was used as a basis for a pedagogical reflection, which suggested three avenues for future research into teaching approaches:

A Social Semiotic approach to Multimodal Communication (SSMC) was used to explain the significance of designed ‘texts’ (such as an e-portfolio), which learners described in their interviews and profiles. Kress (2000) proposed that textual significance can be explained by using the the three key questions of an SSMC approach; ‘Who produced it?’, ‘For whom was it produced?’ and ‘In what context and under what constraints was it produced?’. Bateman's Genre and Multimodality {GeM} framework (2008) was used to describe learners' varied page design choices using its layout, content and rhetorical structural layers. My presentation features screen grabs from the four case studies and examples of choices that reproduced, extended, replaced or undercut (Yoshioka and Herman, 2000) their educator's guidelines. His instructions constitute a meta-genre (Giltrow, 2002), which one learner complied with very closely and extended, two reproduced, replaced and extended slightly and one completely undercut. These choices are explained in context of the e-portfolio's significance to each learner and my paper concluded with a pedagogic reflection that advised Visual Arts educators to teach these aspects when teaching e-portfolio curricula.

The ‘Visual Arts Showcase e-portfolio’ meta-genre has changed and matured since 2010 to become one that assists learners by providing in-depth guidance on each design choice. This approach resonates with the compositional approach of Linguistics, where learners create meaning from the “bottom up” through specific modal choices. Although this proved successful in encouraging compliance for particular choices, it is unlikely to help learners in appreciating how different combinations of choices can be used to create successful examples within the ‘Visual Arts Showcase e-portfolio’ sub-genre.

They should encourage learners to think about the cultural and social significance that the e-portfolio may have to them; at their school, in their professional life and in hobbies, the relevant curricular and extra-mural disciplines they want to feature, who they want to involve in its development and their orientation to potential audiences. In addition to supporting coherence, this should also give more freedom to learners to develop their emergent identities and voice.

The results of following this pedagogical curriculum design recommendation are an avenue for future research. Two other important avenues are pedagogical strategies to address time constraints and design choices with e-portfolios supporting social networking: The number of lessons allocated under ‘Self-management and Presentation’ is insufficient for educators to address important issues of self-curation and publication. The effectiveness of strategies (such as ‘flipping the class’) for helping educate learners about these issues should be investigated. An important criteria for Carbonmade being used at the independent school was that it did not afford social networking functionality (Noakes, 2011). It would be interesting to explore the design choices that learners make when their e-portfolios also afford social networking affordances.

The references for the citations in this post are included in my article. I have provided its source data (such as its interviews) under at

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