Social Pedagogy: Highlighting Two Local Practices

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social_ped_prac_1_editSocial pedagogy plays an important role in ePortfolio at LaGuardia Community College. Particularly because we use ePortfolio to stage classroom activities as well as holistic representations of student work, the ability for students and faculty to interact with and within the ePortfolios is crucial. Here, we are examining two particular practices in depth. However, there are several other social pedagogy practices available in our sampler, available for further consideration.

In this polished practice we will be highlighting:

The Multimedia Research Paper

by Kimberly Ramirez (English)

The Multimedia Research Paper demands that students to interface with each other and exchange work at several crucial stages during the development of individual research papers.  While many students are accustomed to tackling paper writing in solitude, this ePortfolio-based assignment challenges writers to consider and interact with their “audience” (fellow students) as they conceive topics, test theses, and compose drafts.


Video Presentations to Demonstrate Anatomy Theory and Oral Communication Skills

by Preethi Radhakrishnan (Natural Sciences) 

I developed this exercise of integrating ePorfolio into the laboratory setting, for an intensive Human Biology course (SCB 203), in order to force students to rethink their study material in a different light. I ran the assignment as an experiment in order to collect some quantitative data. In Spring I 2012, I taught 2 sections of the SCB 203 course. I taught both lab and lecture for both sections. In one of the lab sections, I employed the use of ePortfolio as an extra credit assignment (Experimental). In the other lab section I did not use ePortfolio (Control) but offered the extra credit as part of the grading for the clay manikins that the students use to study muscles (this is the extra credit that is offered for in all other sections across the board). The ePortfolio extra credit assignment consisted of a theoretical (critical thinking component), both in the form of a video and a written assignment. The reflective part of the assignment was in the form of a video that the students uploaded onto their portfolios. The rubric for the assignment and the instructions were given to the students at the very beginning of the semester. Hence, they knew what was expected of them and how the criteria for the evaluation. The assignment was completely voluntary, however, in a section of 24 students, 20 committed to the assignment.

The social component to the activity was that students were divided in working groups before they created their videos. These working groups helped each other practice anatomical terminology before the making of the videos, create and edit the videos and then comment on each other’s portfolios. The results of this experiment were stark. The experimental group outperformed the control group by a leap in all exams except Lab Exam 1. Qualitatively as well, the Experimental group showed a great deal of satisfaction and sense of accomplishment at the end of the course in comparison with the Control.

LaGuardia ePortfolio Sampler

Additional Social Pedagogy Examples

Predictive Analytics Reflection & Writing“ Yelena Baishanski (Math, Engineering, & Computer Science)

5WH Reports“ by: Susan Dorrington (Education & Language Acquisition)

Using ePortfolio to Promote Reflection and Collaboration in ESOL Classes” by Ellen Quish (Adult Learning Center)

Using ePortfolio to Showcase ESOL Student Projects“ by Ellen Quish (Adult Learning Center)

Authors:  Kimberly Ramirez & Preethi Radhakrishnan

Description of Practices


The Multimedia Research Paper is truly a 21st century assignment.  By using a platform (in this case, digication) that can support multi/hypermedia and social feedback from audiences, the ePortfolio-based approach makes for a collaborative and engaging writing process.  In the challenges outlined in the assignment, students are required to demonstrate competency in Critical Literacy, Quantitative Reasoning, Research and Information Literacy, Oral Communication, and Technological Literacy.  The end-product is a multimedia research paper—one that cannot simply be printed out because a hard-copy version would deprive the reader of embedded media and hypercited material, and would terminate the paper’s potential to interact with an audience.  As John Dewey emphasizes, “experience has to be formulated in order to be communicated” and that ”to formulate requires getting outside of it, seeing it as another would see it.” The students are able to consistently “view as others view” both because what they formulate is re-presented back to themselves-as-audience through the eP medium AND because, as the students compose their papers at various stages, they are hyperaware of their imminent audience since feedback is gathered and exchanges are made at every stage.   For a full assignment description, click HERE.


I developed this exercise of integrating ePorfolio into the laboratory setting, for an intensive Human Biology course, in order to force students to rethink their study material in a different light.

In the sciences, there is this universal phenomenon whereby students learn in a very pre- conditioned fashion. They are applauded for their memorization skills and knowledge of hard- facts. This memorization is essential to some extent, but a deeper contextualization of information is crucial for life-long learning. In the humanities, students are encouraged to take time to reflect on pieces of poetry and produce individual interpretations of their favorite pieces of artwork. I think that this self-directed, holistic learning is sometimes lost in the sciences and needs to reappear. ePortfolio offers a way to do just that, as it has the potential to activate deeper learning mechanisms in students.

In the traditional 12-week Human Anatomy labs, qualitative surveys revealed that students suffer (and drop out) due to two main criteria, 1) An inability to utilize critical thinking skills and 2) lack of time to study “course-heavy” material. Keeping this in mind I designed an extra credit initiative to have students build ePortfolios, which had both a reflective component (addressing transfer), and a theoretical component (concentrating on critical thinking). Students created videos and assignments addressing three of the LaGuardia’s core competencies: Oral Communication, Critical Literacy and Technological Literacy.

The audience of this assignment was the class itself (peers) and the instructor (myself). I ran this assignment as an experiment in order to collect some data for a comparative analysis between sections. So in one section of the class, I conducted the labs without the use of ePortfolio, and in another section I ran the labs with the use of ePortfolio. What was great about this iteration is that I was the lecture and lab instructor for both sections, so I was able to standardize the tests for both sections and analyze performance. The difference in social interaction between students in both sections was stark. The section which employed the use of ePortfolio, were very familiar with their group members, they formed definitive study groups, were constant in touch with one another by commenting on each other’s portfolios, started using other social media (like face book) to keep in touch and frequented Study Hall (a space for student learning on campus) a lot more frequently than the non-ePortfolio users. In addition, I noticed that in the section that utilized ePorfolio, the learning atmosphere within the class was very relaxed and focused compared to the control group.

Since the ultimate purpose behind Nursing and the Health Care Sciences is to understand how to provide better quality care to patients and clients through more effective practice. An essential element of this quality care is communication, a concept that has traditionally not been tested and nurtured in the introductory level of Allied Health. Hence, in order to familiarize students for the competencies of Oral Literacy and Critical Literacy, students created videos which showcased both their knowledge of Anatomy (Groups were divided into Bones, Muscles and Arteries and Veins) and, 2) A short note on reflection of the course goals and how they tie in with students’ life goals (please see Assignment below to reference the Rubric used to grade this competency)

Since students uploaded their videos into their respective ePortfolios, their Technological competency was check-listed, as they spent time outside the classroom, with Consultants and STMs. They also learnt to upload pictures, write up descriptions and edit both text and video online.

The Social component of the assignment involved 1) The videos were done in groups, though each student had a video, they would practice with their groups and study with their groups before the videos were created. Hence this acted as a great activity for students to work closely with one another outside the classroom and 2) The assignments and videos were created so that students could comment on each other’s work. The ‘peer-assessment’ made them very aware of the material their were posting also facilitated conversations that might have typically been missed in the classroom.

In context of this assignment, I did find that social interactions enabled students to understand their course material in a more thorough manner. By watching, communicating and interacting with their peers, this group of students gathered crucial information not only regarding the course material itself, but also about the aims and aspirations (addressed in the reflective piece) of their peers. This snow-balled into them not only regarding their peers with a new level of respect but also enabled them to hold themselves in higher-standing.

The reflective component of the assignment was the most intriguing to me as an instructor. This part of the assignment asked students to address several questions regarding transfer and course outcomes (please see assignment to get a better idea of prompts). I found that students
used this exercise as a primer to enable them to think about the various options that might be available to them when they move into their respective majors/transfer. This is something that I did not see in my control group (students who did not use ePortfolios. The reflective video also enabled me to gain a different perspective on student understanding of the course material and the trial and tribulations they go through in order to succeed.

 Supporting Documentation

“The Multimedia Research Paper”

by Kimberly Ramirez



“Video Presentations to Demonstrate Anatomy Theory and Oral Communication Skills”

by Preethi Radhakrishnan (Natural Sciences)

Please see also: syllabus (pg. 5), rubric (pg. 10), and student examples from ePortfolios (pg. 11) beginning on page 5 of the PDF attachment here, which presents Preethi’s full discussion of this polished practice.

Impact and Evidence


The feedback that writers of the Multimedia Research Paper gather at various stages leads to a solid incorporation of multiple perspectives, the development of counterarguments, and more detailed conclusions.  It also raises the stakes for “who is watching;” students stated that they felt more likely to take care to stage their projects (rather than binge-writing) and craft superior papers when interacting with their audience throughout the writing process (and not only after the paper is done).


By statistically comparing the experimental section (those that used ePortfolios) to the control (those that did not use ePortfolios), I found that the experimental did significantly better than the control. The lab exam 1, did not show any significant difference, but all the other exams and the total average was significantly different. This indicates, that a reflective and critical thinking component to the course architecture does boost student learning of hard concepts within Anatomy. Qualitatively, students did express that even though the extra credit assignment was ‘hard-work’, they enjoyed making the videos and enabled them to document their progress within a course thereby improving self-esteem and self-directed learning.

Fig 1. Comparative Averages for three labs where students were exposed to reflective and theoretical reasoning through ePortfolios (experimental) and then tested Vs. students who were not exposed to ePortfolio (control). Asterix represents significant differences.

Connections to other Polished Practices

  • Polished Reflective Pedagogy Practice (submitted Spring 2012)
  • Polished Scaling Up Story (submitted Fall 2012)
  • Polished Professional Development Practices (submitted Fall 2012)


Polished Reflective Pedagogy Practice (submitted Spring 2012)

Polished Scaling Up Story (submitted Fall 2012)

Polished Professional Development Practices (submitted Fall 2012)

Both Kimberly’s and Preethi’s assignments are examples of the larger ePortfolio culture at the college, carefully structured from seminar to classroom in support of students. They also show the interconnectedness between faculty and the ways in which professional development allows faculty to learn from and inspire one another.

Next Steps


I will surely try this practice again in a basic Biology class (SCB201), where I have more flexibility in changing course material to suit the needs for such an assignment. I plan on making a video to document the next iteration that I run.

As an academic who believes in the mindful use of technology in creating a constructive teaching environment, I will continue to use ePortfolios to encourage my students to transform themselves into active learners who are aware of the self directed learning abilities.

Next Steps for LaGuardia:

One aspect of social pedagogy that faculty at LaGuardia continue to grapple with are the limitations of the ePortfolio system which does not provide as intuitive or transparent an option for social networking and social pedagogy as we might hope. As the assignments in the sampler demonstrate, faculty creatively and generously work around these limitations to find new ways to engage and connect with students, but we continue to hope for additional social networking capabilities to move our social pedagogy to the next level.

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