Fostering Translation Competences and Learner Autonomy with Digital Portfolios

Competences development in translator training (as discussed by Kelly, 2005 and 2009) calls for new learning scenarios where students are placed at the center of the learning experience and assume an active role in the process. Since there is a close relationship between the teaching methods and the competences developed by students, the need for active and participatory methodologies is key, shifting the focus away from the teacher as the distributor of knowledge in the classroom, towards the student as the main actor in the learning process.

Student-centred approaches in didactics have been thoroughly explored in translator training in the socio-constructivist proposals advanced by Kiraly (2000), with a transformation in students role as  “consumers of knowledge” to a “personal, holistic, intrinsically motivating construction process” (ibid:22), a dynamic process “in which meaning is developed on the basis of experience” (ibid: 17). Rather than placing emphasis on a finite outcome resulting from the transmission of knowledge from teacher to student, the former takes the role of a facilitator who guides students from dependency to autonomy, helping them to move beyond directed instruction to a learning environment that “raises students’ awareness of how to go about solving translation problems” (ibid: 27) as part of a scaffolding process. In order to empower students and make them accountable for their own learning, the teacher’s role is to design and foster collaborative learning environments where students learn to communicate and negotiate with peers (Rico, 2009).

Student-centred pedagogical tools include, for example, workshops, task-based methods (González Davies, 2004) and other participatory activities such as simulation exercises, project work, interdisciplinary seminars, teamwork, problem-based learning or internships in relevant organisations (Tuning Project, 2007: 86). These teaching methods develop skills which are key in terms of building the student’s autonomy, and relate to appropriate assessment practices as an integral part in learning.

In the presentation below,  I advcance a case study where the digital portfolio is used as an instrument for creating a student-centred learning environment in a course on translation technology. After an introduction to the notion of the digital portfolio and its elements, I continue with a detailed description of the learning scenario, syllabus design and course competences. I also introduce other didactic tools which together contribute to the effective implementation of the portfolio, reinforcing its central role: a learning guide, a learning contract, a blog as a mirror of student’s work, a learning diary as a reference for the process, and a rubric as a means of evaluation (Angelelli, 2009). The presentation will be illustrated with actual examples of the learning experience.

The presentation closes with a discussion on how the digital portfolio contributes to the development of learner autonomy and interaction in a collaborative learning environment, which is characterized by students’ implication and control in their own learning process, and the possibility of sharing experiences with others inside and outside the classroom. The digital portfolio integrates learning experiences no matter where they take place and triggers a challenge in both teacher and students’ role fostering collaboration and shared responsibility (Barberá et al,  2009).


  • Angelelli, C. V. (2009): “Using a rubric to assess Translation ability: defining the construct” en Angelelli, C.V. y H. E. Jackson: Testing and Assessment in Translation and Interpreting Studies. ATA, John Benjamins.
  • Barberá, E. et al (2009): “Portafolios electrónicos y educación superior en España: Situación y tendencias” en Red U – Revista de Docencia Universitaria. Número monográfico III. Portafolios electrónicos y educación superior en España (en coedición con RED). Disponible en: . Fecha de consulta: 11 de enero de 2011.
  • González Davies, M. (2004) Multiple voices in the Translation Classroom. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  • Kelly. D. (2005) A Handbook for Translator Trainers. Manchester: St. Jerome.
  • Kelly, D. (2007) “Translator Competence Contextualized. Translator Training in the Framework of Higher Education Reform: in Search of Alignment in Curricular Design”, en Dorothy Kenny & Kyongjoo Ryou (eds): Across Boundaries: International Perspectives on Translation Studies. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
  • Kiraly, D. (2000) A Social Constructivist Approach to Translator Education. Empowerment from Theory to Practice. Manchester:  St. Jerome.
  • Rico, C. (2010): “Translator Training in the European Higher Education Area”. Curriculum Design for the Bologna Process. A Case Study” en The Interpreter and Translator Trainer, vol.4 (1): 89-114
  • Tuning Project (2008): Reference Points for the Design and Delivery of Degree Programmes in European Studies. Disponible en: Fecha de consulta: 11 de enero de 2011

This presentacion was first delivered at the  International Conference on Translation and Applied Linguistics, Language and Translation Teaching in Face-to-Face and Distance Learning, Universitat de Vic, 7-8 April 2011



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