Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Leadership Studies


Organization & Leadership EdD

First Advisor

Ellen Herda

Second Advisor

Dan McPherson

Third Advisor

Shabnam Koirala-Azad


As universities increasingly utilize electronic portfolios, college students are asked more than ever to create ePortfolios for academics, assessment, or advising. This study shifts an analysis of ePortfolios from prior epistemological approaches, where ePortfolios have been explored as a tool to measure student progress, onto an ontological perspective, where they are a medium for new understandings about self and others. This research examines the influence of college students' electronic portfolios on learning, identity, and assessment. The broader intention of this study is to create a narrative of students' experiences with ePortfolios that integrates critical hermeneutic theory.

The research protocol of this study is critical hermeneutic participatory inquiry (Herda 1999). Through an interpretive approach, new understandings of the topic at hand emerge from conversations with participants. The conversations are transcribed and analyzed in light of critical hermeneutic theory (Ricoeur 1984, 1992). This framework guides this research on understanding how ePortfolios encourage students to examine their past and imagine new possible worlds.

This research is guided by the categories of narrative identity (Ricoeur 1992), fusion of horizons (Gadamer 1988), and mimesis (Ricoeur 1984). Viewing the ePortfolio through narrative identity highlights that one's identity, through constancy and change, can be understood as a story that is recounted to others. Fusion of horizons provides a framework for student learning that arises through experience, text, and conversation. Mimesis offers an approach to viewing a student's ePortfolio experience through a lens of past understandings, present experiences, and future hopes.

The findings relate to the diverse experiences of conversation partners with ePortfolios, which served purposes related to advising and mentoring, or to present an academic identity to employers or faculty. These findings address ePortfolios as a way to engage with others about identity, to expand on prior understandings and ways of being, and to create a coherent narrative of past, present, and future. The implications may guide educators in developing ePortfolio programs that prepare students for authentic, ethical living in a global, ever-changing world.

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