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The importance of #professionalidentity. ePortfolios Australia Forum - ACU Canberra #eportforum #education #eportfolio 2019

The organisers and volunteers of this years ePortfolio Forum in Australia put together an event that was fun and full of interesting topics and conversations. As one participant noted it is wonderful to be surrounded by people on the "same page" and to be part of a network of colleagues passionate about eportfolio practice.  A big thank you to Allison Miller and the team.

For a summary of what people found interesting on the day click the link to the twitter back channel here:


The keynotes were delivered by two experts in the field and provided good findings and direction for anyone using, or wanting to use, portfolios in the professional identity and development space.

Keynote Speaker:  Professor Tristram Hooley, Professor of Career Education and University of Derby, England.  Spoke about how eportfolios support career development.

Professor Tristram Hooley
Tristram believes that "ePortfolios have to be viewed as...

  • A dynamic and contested place that can develop  in a variety of directions
  • the centre of a critical thinking process
  • Strongly linked to career learning
  • Able to foster critical reflexivity
  • Something that can develop lifelong practices"
To read more about Tristram's work see his blog here:

Keynote Speaker: Associate Professor Denise Jackson , Director for Work-Integrated Learning at the School of Business and Law, Edith Cowan University, Western Australia spoke about the meaning of professional identity and its relationship to future employment.

It was amazing to hear from Denise who has almost ten years experience researching and practising in this area. Some of the included topics in her presentation were:

  • Employability: beyond the skills approach
  • Definitions of professional practice
  • Dimensions of professional identity
  • Why is professional identity important
  • Identity capital
  • Persona and personal brand
  • Developing professional identity: key factors

Associate Professor Denise Jackson 

As per the slide above, the takeaways Denise left us with were:

  • Professional identity encompasses familiarity, confidence, capability, mindset
  • Developing professional identity in higher education students requires purposeful curriculum design
  • ePortfolios play a critical role in encouraging students to reflect on their experience, and evidencing and articulating their achievements.

Workshop: Developing Professional Identity
My colleague (Georgie Barden and I ran a workshop called "Developing Professional Identity". We both work at the University of Canberra.

During this session participants:

  • Developed and communicated a professional identity
  • Draw a distinction between professional identity and identifying with a profession

We chose "Superheros" as the profession as everyone knows something about it,  leveraging shared understanding which enabled rich communication and collaboration in the session. Turn out was good with 4-6 people in each group, which was good because some were very passionate about one or more super heroes while others didn't seem too phased. The blend of people and interests made for great discussion and everyone learning something about each other.

3 groups with 3 super heroes was a good number 

The session was intended to develop the concept of Professional Identification (which profession(s) people identify with and what the characteristics are) as compared to Professional Identity (the things that make you unique within those professions). 
People were asked to do the following:
"In your groups, choose a superhero and create a professional identity portfolio

  • Think about how the following influence your professional identity construction:
    • What is your profession? (You might have more than one)
    • The purpose and meaning of the profession and how it contributes to society
    • The norms, values, and behaviours of others in the profession"

We used pen and paper to save time and making thinking transparent, with ICT used by groups for research
Next they were asked:

  • What is Professional Identity?
    • What common approaches define what a superhero is? 
    • What makes your superhero unique among superheroes?
  • Why is professional identity important?

The three groups came up with the following:

Next we went through these lists and summarised the things that were common to all of the superheroes, while adding other things they all had in common. These things make up the attributes of the profession, and are the shared core attributes that make each super hero feel like they belong to the group.
  • Resilient
  • Reactive
  • On call 24/7
  • Secretive
  • Private
  • Cares about Social Justice 
  • Rescuer
  • Athletic
  • Independent 

The session clearly demonstrated that each super hero had characteristics that were shared with the others that made them a super hero, but they also had attributes that made them totally unique within the profession.

Hopefully we can help our students learn what it means to be a certain professional, yet also identify how they are unique as they develop over their career. We also have the chance to help them learn hoe to best communicate  these unique attributes, skills and experiences to peers, educational institutions, employers, and other audiences.

The feedback for the session was positive. Lynn McAllister commented how it was good we didn't have a serious focus on the participants own identity construction and that the session was fun as a result of using the super hero characters. Interestingly she mentioned how it could easily be adapted to other cultures/countries by using other characters from those cultures EG Manga characters.  Finally, participants were encouraged to apply what they learned to their own professional identify construction.
Things from networking
  • If you are looking for a scenario based learning tool, someone tipped me off to which I'll certainly be looking into.
  • If you would like to learn more about AAEEBL’s yearlong initiative focusing on Digital Ethics and ePortfolios and be notified of future events and opportunities to contribute and participate, please share your contact information here:


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