Conference proposal

Electronic portfolios (ePortfolios), when applied as pedagogy (Catalyst for Learning), provide learners with opportunities to create different representations of their various learning experiences, and make visible the authentic “evidence of [their] experience in the ePortfolio (Scott, 1991). Central to this, is the ability of ePortfolios to empower learners to find their own pathway by providing learners the space to reflect on their various learning experiences (Penny Light, 2016). The fundamental piece in a portfolio for learning is that learners are able to develop their reflective and intellectual abilities over the course of their learning career. As diverse learners comprise a larger percentage of our learner population, it is imperative that we look to the ways that culture shapes learner identities, and the characteristics they bring to higher education. Many ePortfolio implementations overlook the significance of encouraging learners to consider the ways that their learning identities are also shaped by culture.


Crystalyn Lemieux graduated from the University of Alaska Anchorage with a bachelor in health sciences and a minor in psychology. She received a Fulbright grant to do research on cultural identity ePortfolios with Dr. Tracy Penny Light.

Proposal abstract

Research on ePortfolios in higher education suggests that ePortfolios provide learners with opportunities to document learning across contexts.  Central to this is the ability of ePortfolios to enable learners to reflect on learning that happens in a variety of contexts, which can empower them (Penny Light, 2016). In order to be empowered, though, learners must have opportunities to develop their identity (Nguyen 2013; Barrett, 2004). ePortfolios prepare  learners to develop their identity, by reflecting on the ways that their various learning experiences are connected. The central value of the portfolio for learning is that learners are able to develop their reflective abilities over their learning career.  As such, ePortfolios are a living portal that allows learners to continuously revisit their thinking in light of new learning experiences (Nguyen, 2013).

While many ePortfolio implementations mindfully build in the time and space for reflection and carefully scaffold the development of folio thinking across courses and programs, they do not often encourage learners to consider the ways that their learning identities are also shaped by culture.  As first-generation and Indigenous learners comprise a larger percentage of our learner population, it is imperative that we look to the ways that culture shapes learner identities, so that students can harness their backgrounds as a way of understanding, who they are and the unique qualities and characteristics they bring to higher education.

Just as folio thinking needs to be developed over time, so too do cultural identities.  This is particularly true for learners who come from Indigenous or minority groups that have suffered historical trauma.  Instead of accepting the negative identity that is given to minority or Indigenous learners, cultural identity portfolios can assist them to to construct a healthy identity based on their values and culture through ePortfolios. Learners who utilize folio thinking can share their diverse perspectives among others who are unfamiliar with the daily struggles or the influence that culture has on perspectives and identity. Further, the development of a cultural identity through ePortfolios is a method of reconciliation for all learners who have experienced oppressive histories that destroyed culture, languages, and identity.

This published project will direct future research, promote a sense of pride in Indigenous peoples as they learn more about their culture and see it celebrated and, open up a new means for communities to share their history and be a guide to other minorities who want to share and celebrate their culture and traditions. There is a lack of research on cultural identity ePortfolios. Other institutions and researchers can build upon and implement cultural identity ePortfolios within their existing frameworks. Indigenous culture and history has been traditionally shared through oral communication. ePortfolios are a means for cultural identity to be shared and celebrated on a bigger scale, promoting the interactive recording and sharing of heritage, especially amongst a younger population who is looking for an accessible way to learn about and share their own heritage and culture.

Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Crystalyn Rose Lemieux-United States-Health Sciences

Interviewing Indigenous students for the development of Indigenous e-portfolios

My name is Crystalyn Lemieux and my Tlingit name is Gunsi. My family is from Angoon, but I grew up in Haines, Alaska. My Mother’s name is Stella Howard, and my grandparents are Angelina Howard and the late Pete Howard. My Dad’s name is Ken Lemieux and my grandparents are Judy and Jake Goenett. My great grandparents are the late Beverly and Carl. I recently graduated from the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) with my bachelors in Health Sciences and a minor in psychology. I now work at the Alaska Native Heritage Center.


The way we introduce ourselves and how we share our identity is a long process. It is not appropriate to take this long to introduce ourselves using our Native identity and style of introductions at the university. We are aware of it immediately and we try to quickly pick up on the western pace, but it is at the expense of losing our identity. This is a fear many of us have and it feels like trying to paddle against a heavy current.  It is not logical to us and some of us give up, because we are homesick or we decide the university route is not for us.


I struggled with homesickness and wanting to give up, because I felt so out of place at the university. Then I woke up to the reality of oppression, colonialism, and a traumatic history that sparked my interest in learning more about Alaska Native history and the way these issues impact our success and identity today. This new knowledge moved me from the brink of giving up to a new motivation to continue my education so that I can support Native peoples in developing healthy identities. In my transcript, you will see where I wanted to give up; it is reflected in my grade point average. I changed my major to Health Education, because it gave me room to work with groups of people and gave me the space to include my culture in future health program planning.


Including Native cultures at the University is important, because we can use our education to come up with innovative ways to develop healthy identities, so we can heal from past trauma and to use our culture as a foundation for resiliency to move forward. Being able to share knowledge about Alaska Native languages, history, and cultures helps us to learn who we are as a Native person and to break away from the negative identities that are often imposed on us. I understand the importance of being immersed in the culture to fully understand what it is like, because a book or article cannot provide that deeper understanding. However, our perspectives could be shared through storytelling and we can get connected with one another to support each other. These venues could provide more opportunities for students to be immersed in other cultures through building relationships and sharing resources internationally.


The Elders and mentors who work on preparing me to become an Elder have taught me never to forget who I am as an Alaska Native person. This means using our culture to cope in healthy ways and to stay grounded in our values to get past the difficult times and to survive. We have the responsibility to carry on our culture, history, and the traditions, so that we will thrive for the next ten thousand years. Without the strength of our culture, we would not be where we are today and we would not have the opportunities we have today. My goal is to create a space for us to thrive for the next ten thousand years through sharing, educating, and celebrating our cultures.

Statement of Grant Purpose


Statement of Grant Purpose

Crystalyn Lemieux- United States-Health Education

Project Goals & Purpose

This project seeks to develop and validate a platform for first generation university students who come from an Indigenous background to express their cultural identities and to merge their Western educational experiences with their Indigenous identity.  Currently, many indigenous students struggle to find safe spaces to describe and document the challenges they face when entering university life as a minority student and to express their cultural identities in ways that honor their cultural heritage. Some students feel as if they have to choose one identity over another and as a result, they leave the university. Using ePortfolios, (electronic portfolios) will provide students with opportunities to develop their own intellectual and Indigenous identities as they document their learning across contexts to develop knowledge, skills, and abilities that foster educational success. Importantly, ePortfolios will help students connect with other Indigenous students internationally who will become future leaders that work with one another at the national or international level. Ultimately, this project aims to foster student success through the recognition of Indigenous cultural values within traditional academic settings and beyond.

Research Relevance

According to Batson (2011) ePortfolios follow situated learning theory and allow us to measure learning that occurs outside of the classrooms and apart from the professors. It is a holistic form of recording a student’s education, because it allows the student to document their common intellectual experiences and links students to learning communities (Penny Light et. al., 2011). Despite the emerging research on the value of ePortfolios in higher education (Eynon et. al, 2014), more work needs to be done to truly understand the value of ePortfolios for student engagement and success. Even more needed is research that looks at ways to foster student success among first generation, Indigenous learners to mitigate high attrition rates. While many universities are working to address the challenges faced by Indigenous learners, few strategies have emerged that foster the development of intellectual AND Indigenous identities so that they are able to successfully navigate their pathway through postsecondary education (AUCC, 2011). This research therefore, is timely and needed.


I will be working with, Dr. Penny Light, her team, and students at Thompson Rivers University (TRU) to develop cultural identity ePortfolios. An ePortfolio template will be developed and customized for use with professors across disciplines. A pre-and-post questionnaire will be administered to users to gauge their levels of engagement with ePortfolios as well as to capture growth in learning and the development of intellectual and Indigenous identities over time. This data will be correlated with other student success indicators (for instance, grades, and persistence rates). In addition to the questionnaires that will yield both quantitative and qualitative data, we will conduct interviews and focus groups with participants (students, professors, and community members engaged in the work). The qualitative data will be collected through interviews or research talking circles that are used by Kovach in Indigenous methodologies (2012). During this time an evaluation scheme will be developed to measure how many students utilized the ePortfolios and how to measure the international impact. The data will be organized into themes that can be shared with stakeholders in a presentation. We will also gather qualitative data from community members to ask whether the ePortfolios are culturally relevant. Then we will present to stakeholders (professors, students, researchers, etc.) on our findings and how to improve the ePortfolios in the future and how they help students develop a healthy cultural and educational identity.


A number of deliverables will emerge from this project. First, a full report of the findings from the quantitative and qualitative data will be completed. Second, the findings will be used to develop learning strategies and programs that will extend the ePortfolio work into classrooms beyond those used in the research. These will be made publicly available on a website so that other professors can adapt them for their courses beyond TRU and UAA. Third, the findings will be presented at appropriate academic conferences and to Indigenous community leaders. Finally, all of the stakeholders engaged in this research will be invited to a celebration of the work at the end of the project.

International Impact

Conducting the research in Canada provides an opportunity to build on existing work at TRU and UAA.  The Fulbright will allow me to develop relationships with the community and stakeholders to find people who can sustain the project and get community buy in. Using Indigenous dialogues and the act of meeting in person to share the project and to build relationships with students will be an important aspect of the project in terms of getting students and other stakeholders interested in developing their own ePortfolios and for the sustainability of the project. Doing the research in this way also privileges the cultural practices and ways of knowing, which are done in person and through relationship building. It is beneficial to do the work in Canada because it builds a “bridge” from Canada and the work being done in Alaska. The two indigenous groups have so many similarities and are geographically close. The Indigenous communities do not just stop at the border and there are relations to the Alaska Native peoples; they have similar cultural practices, languages, and histories. Indigenous groups in both countries experienced land claims issues, yet the work at TRU and UAA provide Kamloops Indigenous peoples and Alaskan Natives (Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act) more resources available to them from these trials than other Indigenous groups in the world.  As such, marrying the work in these two contexts will allow me to develop a framework that can be adapted and used in other geographic contexts.

Project Timeline


Recruitment will occur through various mediums and personal invites. Participate in the activities at the Gathering place (Aboriginal student services) at TRU to build relationships with the student community. Attend weekly developmental meetings on brainstorming and developing the ePortfolio template. Host the first dialogue at the end of the month to begin gathering data on how to create a culturally relevant e-portfolio. Gain professor involvement for the spring semester pilot project. Develop the ePortfolio templates for use in courses.


Present on how to use the e-portfolios to students to set them up for success. Develop questionnaires for data collection. Disseminate information about the project on a website.

Administer the pre-and-post questionnaires to participating stakeholders. Support the students and professors in their ePortfolio development. Conduct interviews and focus groups. Analyze data. 


Develop and edit the final report. Create presentation for different stakeholder audiences. Present the findings to stakeholders and at academic conferences. Develop a project plan that I can then execute as a pilot project when I return to Alaska. Present to stakeholder groups at the gathering place; which would include the TRU Elders in house program, Students Union & First Nations Collective, and TRU Professors.