“Is There a Portfolio in This Community? Tensions in the Use of ePortfolios for Employability Beyond the Academy”

Presentation by Darren Cambridge

Darren Cambridge delivered a wallop of lofty sociological theorizing on Western understandings of self and community integrated with practical applications via specific cases of ePortfolio implementation.  His own portfolio work centers on the Arkansas Community Portfolio Project, which was introduced as one of four possible configurations in a typology derived from a four-fold table with two types of tensions:



I gave this five stars because it’s right where I am in terms of thinking about ePortfolios and right where I perceive the CUNY Online to be re the development of the virtual campus.  Just as George says we are “building and flying” at the same time, Darren addresses the color of the parachute.  So this was less about “When are we going to get there?” and more about “Where are we going and why do we want to be there?”

On the lofty plane Darren positioned the ePortfolio (and earlier print portfolio from which it evolved) as a manifestation of cultural capital, a single-authored artifact which draws together in an aggregative or integrative style the narrative of one individual. However, more collectivist ePortfolio versions have emerged via global diffusion into geographic areas and cultural contexts with higher emphasis on collectives and groups rather than individuals.  Darren understands the aggregative and integrative poles as defining the endpoints of tension concerning how relationships between multiple pieces of evidence are organized.  He understands the individualist contra collectivist tensions within the framework of traditional and contemporary sociological theorizing.

Darren then focused on the question of looking at the portfolio as a collective rather than an individual enterprise with employability as the integration of these two tensions.

In an integrative employability model, says Darren, individuals create a career identity, which is cultivated by a narrative that integrates social capital, human capital and adaptability.  Human capital components include doing good work, expertise and competencies.  Social capital components include ethics and communitarian concerns:  professional contributions to society, personal integrity.


Quoting from Nicholas Rose in Powers of Freedom, Darren described the contemporary global problem of unemployment:

Unemployment is now conceptualized as a phenomenon to be governed – through acting on the conduct of the unemployed person, obliging him or her to improve “employability,” by acquiring skills, both substantive skills and skills in acquiring work, obliging the individual to engage in a constant and active search for work…Personal employment and macroeconomic health are to be ensured by encouraging individuals to “capitalize” themselves, to invest in the management, presentation, promotion and enhancement of their own economic capital as a capacity of their selves and as a lifelong project.”

In the current environment, governments insist that individuals take an active role in being “employable” – we must be in a state of constant change and update to be employable.  The portfolio is in this context a tool for development of self – a powerful technology, which in some larger sense allows for “working on the self” toward this goal of being “employable.”

Darren created a four-fold table using his two dimensions of tension and then provided examples for each type thereby produced:

INDIVIDUALIST NedCar (Holland) UtilVIF (Quebec)
COLLECTIVIST Internet Shiminjuku Augusta Community Portfolio

The first example, NedCar in Holland, is a fairly traditional I/O assessment model.  There are specific KSA’s (knowledge, skills and abilities) needed and it’s the individual’s responsibility to learn them.

Case #1:  NedCar in Holland (Werk.nl)

  • From job-based to project-based industry
  • Document competencies and market them to potential employers
  • Plan retraining

Competency Matching for Employability

  • Choose competency frameworks defined by employers
  • Determine and document competency profile
  • Compare with career profiles
  • Connect to learning activities to fill gaps
  • Match with jobs

The second example, integrative individualist, uses utilVIF in Quebec to illustrate the use of portfolios to document and facilitate the integration of immigrants in three stages.  This type highlights a view of individuals as seeing employment within the context of other parts of lives.  But, again, like the aggregative individualist model, the individual conforms him or herself to adapt to the external demands of employers.

Case #2: utilVIF in Quebec

  • Successful and harmonious integration of immigrants
  • Modular personal portal links services to self representation

The project rolled out in three phases:

Phase 1:  Basic integration

  • Language proficiency
  • Personal profiles
  • Experiences
  • Competence

Phase 2: Work integration

  • Finding employment
  • Performing interviews
  • Local employment culture
  • Starting a business

Phase 3: Daily life

  • Housing
  • Family
  • Banking
  • Leisure
  • Citizenship

The third case, Internet Shiminjuku in Japan, provides and example of aggregative collectivist approaches, in which individuals have responsibility for each other)

Case #3:  Internet Shiminjuku

  • Juki as lifelong institution of learning
  • Juku of citizenship
  • Autonomous, social and tool
  • Firi – respect for social relationship
  • Wa – tinkering for integration

Part of citizenship is contributing to learning of others, thus peer teaching is used to build social capital.

The model features:

  • Regional online learning network
    • Citizen lecturers
    • Citizen participants
  • New career paths
  • New enterprises
  • Digital archives

Teaching in this model is distributed across community – it is not an isolated function of the educational system.

The fourth case represents an integrative collectivist approach.  Here, were look at the whole of the town of Augusta, Arkansas.

Case #4:  Augusta, Arkansas (Darren is working on this)

Augusta is a small impoverished town that needs to find role in new economy with a very successful literacy program based out of a regional health center.

Goals of the Augusta Portfolio

  • Make visible to the world the impressive reading and writing of the people of Augusta
  • Part conversations about Augusta’s heritage, achievements and aspirations
  • Provide and online place to conduct and share such conversations
  • Help people in Augusta develop 21st century literacies
  • Synthesize and communicate a vision of Augusta’s future

Three layers

  • Exhibits – designed by readers and writers in Augusta with the media – digital artifacts, social media conversation – vision more than a reality at this stage
  • Collective representation
  • Individual – this is on the margins.  Darren used a FaceBook example to show a counter example of how individuals can lose control over what gets posted by others to their individual portfolios

In this integrative collectivist model, the two tensions pull against each other— there is a logic for how things are organized – someone is responsible – but all of the pieces fit together as outlined below.

Public Displays of Connections

  • Blogroll and friends lists as messages (Donath and Boyd, 2004)
  • Intentional performance of identity rather than a transparent representation of a social network
    • Note re loss of control in FaceBook
    • “impression management is an inescapably collective process” (2008) Danah boyd as suicide girl
    • self-representation is necessarily a collaborative enterprise
    • widgets connected – you cannot draw a boundary
    • Materially Connected
      • Neither fully productive or consumption
      • Compare to “authorship” and “ownership” and “control”
      • Meaning and functionality dependent on connections  (Perkle 2008)
      • Where’s the text in this context
      • Traditional boundaries are gone

Lots of food for thought and nourishment for integrating thinking and planning while already in flight.  Contact for Darren Cambridge below.  Slides are available on SlideShare.


Comments are closed.

Need help with the Commons? Visit our
help page
Send us a message
Skip to toolbar