Vocations and Learning

, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 353–372 | Cite as

ePortfolios: Enhancing Professional Learning of Vocational Educators

  • Annemarieke HoekstraEmail author
  • Jocelyn R. Crocker
Original Paper


Vocational educators urgently need to keep learning throughout their careers. However, traditional professional development (PD), such as courses and workshops, yields limited transfer to the workplace as it does not align with how professionals naturally learn at work. The study discussed here reports on professional learning of vocational educators within one institute for technical vocational education in Western Canada. Seven instructors and five program chairs from five different programs were interviewed regarding professional learning in their departments, the extent to which this learning was enhanced through the implementation of an ePortfolio approach, and factors that contributed to or inhibited this learning. Our analysis shows that the ePortfolio approach increased some professional learning activities including goalsetting, documenting growth, discussions with peers, and reflection. Cross-case analysis illustrates that professional learning is embedded in professional practices and cannot be understood by examining individual factors separately from departmental environments. Based on our study, we can draw three conclusions: i) the interaction between the cultures in the original trade/profession and the vocational educational department is unique to the vocational education context and should be further explored, ii) the role of program chairs in vocational education is of crucial importance to instructor professional learning, and iii) our findings indicate that instructor professional learning practices are not static and can and should be improved. Further studies into and experiments with comprehensive approaches to supporting professional learning of vocational educators are necessary and long overdue.


Professional learning Electronic portfolios Work-related learning Professional development Vocational education Career and technical education 



The analysis and writing stages of this study were partially funded by SSHRC Insight Development Grant number 430-2013-00056. The authors would like to thank the blind reviewers and the editorial team for their helpful comments. We thank the students of the Captioning and Court Reporting program for their help with transcribing interviews, Dong Ye for her help with the data analysis, and Jennifer Semchuk and Kathy Cocchio for their assistance with editing and proofreading.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Research ethics approval was received from NAIT’s Research Ethics Board. This approval certifies that data collection procedures are in accordance with Canada’s Tri-Council Policy Statement for ethical conduct for research involving human subjects.

Supplementary material

12186_2015_9133_MOESM1_ESM.doc (32 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 31 kb)
12186_2015_9133_MOESM2_ESM.doc (30 kb)
ESM 2 (DOC 30 kb)
12186_2015_9133_MOESM3_ESM.doc (62 kb)
ESM 3 (DOC 62 kb)


  1. Amundsen, C., & Wilson, M. (2012). Are we asking the right questions? A conceptual review of the educational development literature in higher education. Review of Educational Research, 82(1), 90–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Atkinson, D. J., & Bolt, S. (2010). Using teaching observations to reflect upon and improve teaching practice in higher education. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 10(3), 1–19.Google Scholar
  3. Baert, H., & Govaerts, N. (2012). Learning patterns of teams at the workplace. Journal of Workplace Learning, 24(7/8), 538–550.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baert, H., De Rick, K., & Van Valckenborgh, K. (2006). Towards the conceptualisation of ‘learning climate’. In R. V. de Castro, A. V. Sancho, & P. Guimaraes (Eds.), Adult education: New routes in a new landscape. Braga: University of Minho.Google Scholar
  5. Baldwin, T. T., & Ford, J. K. (1988). Transfer of training: a review and directions for future research. Personnel Psychology, 41(1), 63–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beausaert, S. A. J., Segers, M. S. R., & Gijselaers, W. H. (2011). Using a personal development plan for different purposes: its influence on undertaking learning activities and job performance. Vocations and Learning, 4, 231–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Billett, S. (2002). Critiquing workplace learning discourses: participation and continuity at work. Studies in the Education of Adults, 34, 56–68.Google Scholar
  8. Billett, S. (2011). Subjectivity, self and personal agency in learning through and for work. In M. Malloch, L. Cairns, K. Evans, & B. N. O’Connor (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of workplace learning (pp. 60–72). Los Angeles: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Blume, B. D., Ford, J. K., Baldwin, T. T., & Huang, J. L. (2010). Transfer of training: a meta-analytic review. Journal of Management, 36, 1065–1105. doi: 10.1177/0149206309352880.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bound, H. (2011). Vocational education and training teacher professional development: tensions and context. Studies in Continuing Education, 33(2), 107–119. doi: 10.1080/0158037X.2011.554176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Clarke, D., & Hollingsworth, H. (2002). Elaborating a model of teacher professional growth. Teaching and Teacher Education, 18, 947–967. doi: 10.1016/S0742-051X(02)0005307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cox, M. D., & Richlin, L. (Eds.). (2004). Building faculty learning communities: New directions for teaching and learning, number 97. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  13. Cross, K. P., & Steadman, M. H. (1996). Classroom research: Implementing the scholarship of teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  14. Darwin, S. (2007). The changing contexts of vocational education: implications for institutional vocational learning. International Journal of Training and Research, 5(1), 55–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Day, C. (1999). Developing teachers: The challenges of lifelong learning. London: Falmer Press.Google Scholar
  16. Engeström, Y. (2011). Activity theory and learning at work. In M. Malloch, L. Cairns, K. Evans, & B. N. O’Connor (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of workplace learning (pp. 86–104). Los Angeles: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Eraut, M. (2004). Informal learning in the workplace. Studies in Continuing Education, 26(2), 247–273. doi: 10.1080/158037042000225245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fletcher, F., & Roberts, C. (2008). Managing the chair’s paradoxical role. The Department Chair: A Resource of Academic Administrators, 19(2), 11–12.Google Scholar
  19. Fuller, A., & Unwin, L. (2011). Workplace learning and the organization. In M. Malloch, L. Cairns, K. Evans, & B. N. O’Connor (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of workplace learning (pp. 46–59). SAGE: Los Angeles.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Goliath, C. L. (2009). Diffusion of an e-Portfolio to assist in the self-directed learning of physicians: An exploratory study. Dissertation. University of Akron.Google Scholar
  21. Guba, E. G., & Lincoln, Y. S. (1998). Competing paradigms in qualitative research. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), The landscape of qualitative research: Theories and issues (pp. 195–220). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  22. Hager, P. (2005). Current theories of workplace learning: A critical assessment. In N. Bascia, A. Cumning, A. Datnow, K. Leithwood, & D. Livingstone (Eds.), International handbook of educational policy (pp. 829–847). Berlin/ Dordrecht/New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hallonen, J. S., & Ellenberg, G. B. (2006). Teaching evaluation follies: Misperception and misbehavior in student evaluation of teachers. In P. Seldin (Ed.), Evaluating faculty performance: A practical guide to assessing teaching, research, and service (pp. 150–165). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  24. Hodkinson, H., & Hodkinson, P. (2005). Improving schoolteachers’ workplace learning. Research Papers in Education, 20, 109–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hoekstra, A., & Crocker, J. R. (2015). Design, implementation, and evaluation of an ePortfolio approach to support faculty development in vocational education. Studies in Educational Evaluation. doi: 10.1016/j.stueduc.2015.03.007.
  26. Hoekstra, A., & Korthagen, F. (2011). Teacher learning in a context of educational change: informal learning versus systematically supported learning. Journal of Teacher Education, 62(1), 76–92.Google Scholar
  27. Hoekstra, A., Beijaard, D., Brekelmans, J. M. G., & Korthagen, F. A. J. (2007). Experienced teachers’ informal learning from classroom teaching. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 13(2), 189–206.Google Scholar
  28. Hoekstra, A., Brekelmans, M., Beijaard, D., & Korthagen, F. (2009a). Experienced teachers’ informal learning: learning activities and changes in behaviour and cognition. Teaching and Teacher Education, 25(5), 663–673.Google Scholar
  29. Hoekstra, A., Korthagen, F., Brekelmans, M., Beijaard, D., & Imants, J. (2009b). Experienced teachers’ informal workplace learning and perceptions of workplace conditions. Journal of Workplace Learning, 21(4), 276–298.Google Scholar
  30. Hubball, H. T., Pratt, D. D., & Collins, J. B. (2005). Enhancing reflective teaching practices: implications for faculty development. The Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 35(3), 57–81.Google Scholar
  31. Imants, J., Wubbels, T., & Vermunt, J. D. (2013). Teachers’ enactment of workplace conditions and their beliefs and attitudes toward reform. Vocations and Learning, 6, 323–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kwakman, C. H. E. (2003). Factors affecting teachers’ participation in professional learning activities. Teaching and Teacher Education, 19, 149–170. doi: 10.1016/S0742-051X(02)00101-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kyndt, E., & Baert, H. (2013). Antecedents of employees’ involvement in work-related learning: a systematic review. Review of Educational Research, 83(2), 273–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lamont, M. (2007). What are the features of e-portfolio implementation that can enhance learning and promote self-regulation? Maastricht: Paper presented at the European Institute for E-Learning (EIfEL) conference.Google Scholar
  35. Lancaster, S., Di Milia, L., & Cameron, R. (2012). Supervisor behaviours that facilitate training transfer. Journal of Workplace Learning, 25(1), 6–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lincoln, Y. S., Lynham, S. A., & Guba, E. G. (2011). Paradigmatic controversies, contradictions, and emerging confluences, revisited. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of qualitative research (pp. 97–128). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  38. Lohman, M. C., & Woolf, N. H. (2001). Self-initiated learning activities of experienced public school teachers: methods, sources, and relevant organizational influences. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 7, 59–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Mansvelder-Longayroux, D. D., Beijaard, D., & Verloop, N. (2007). The portfolio as a tool for stimulating reflection by student teachers. Teaching and Teacher Education, 23(1), 47–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Marsick, V. J., & Watkins, K. E. (1990). Informal and incidental learning in the workplace. London/New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  41. Marsico, G. (2012). The double uncertainty: trajectories and professional identity in changing contexts. Culture and Psychology, 18(1), 121–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Meirink, J. A., Meijer, P. C., Verloop, N., & Bergen, T. C. M. (2009). Understanding teacher learning in secondary education: the relations of teacher activities to changed beliefs about teaching and learning. Teaching and Teacher Education, 25(1), 89–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Miles, M. B., & Huberman, M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.Google Scholar
  44. Murray, J. P. (1997). Successful faculty development and evaluation: The complete teaching portfolio. Washington: Graduate School of Education and Human Development, The George Washington University. ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED405759.Google Scholar
  45. Opfer, V. D., & Pedder, D. (2011). Conceptualizing teacher professional learning. Review of Educational Research, 81(3), 376–407.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Pallett, W. (2006). Uses and abuses of student ratings. In P. Seldin (Ed.), Evaluating faculty performance: A practical guide to assessing teaching, research, and service (pp. 50–65). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  47. Sambrook, S. (2005). Factors influencing the context and process of work-related learning: synthesizing findings from two research projects. Human Resource Development International, 8(1), 101–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Schön, D. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  49. Shuell, T. J. (1986). Cognitive conceptions of learning. Review of Educational Research, 56, 411–436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Stes, A., Min-Leliveld, M., Gijbels, D., & Van Petegem, P. (2010). The impact of instructional development in higher education: the state-of-the-art of the research. Educational Research Review, 5(1), 25–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Stiehl, R., & Lewchuk, L. (2008). The outcomes primer: Reconstructing the college curriculum. Corvallis: The Learning Organization.Google Scholar
  52. Van Eekelen, I. M., Vermunt, J. D., & Boshuizen, H. P. A. (2006). Exploring teachers’ will to learn. Teaching and Teacher Education, 22(4), 408–423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Van Woerkom, M., & Croon, M. (2008). Operationalising critically reflective work behavior. Personnel Review, 37, 317–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Vanthournout, G., Noyens, D., Gijbels, D., & Van den Bossche, P. (2014). The relationship between workplace climate, motivation and learning approaches for knowledge workers. Vocations and Learning, 7, 191–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Vermunt, J. D., & Endedijk, M. D. (2011). Patterns in teacher learning in different phases of the professional career. Learning and Individual Differences, 21, 294–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Webster-Wright, A. (2009). Reframing professional development through understanding authentic professional learning. Review of Educational Research, 79, 702–739.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Zeichner, K., & Liu, Y. (2010). A critical analysis of reflection as a goal for teacher education. In N. Lyons (Ed.), Handbook of reflective inquiry. New York: Springer.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.EdmontonCanada

Personalised recommendations