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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Review of Portfolios in Higher Education

An article in Campus Technology reports that the Association for Authentic, Experiential and Evidence-Based Learning (AAEEBL.org) conducted a survey of its 100 institutional members in five countries this year regarding their use of portfolios. A portfolio is (almost always, now) a digital repository that is used to develop reflective and integrative critical thinking skills. The organization found 61 distinct uses of portfolios among the 20 institutions that responded. When so many people become this inventive with a technology, we can assume the technology has been institutionalized. At the same time, the number of vendors providing portfolio products is now at 30-40 world wide, a large number for a technology and market that is not yet mature and may not be for years to come.

Many of the reported uses stressed the value of students learning to communicate in writing about their work. One chemistry major program required all undergraduate majors use portfolios to demonstrate their research skills by collecting evidence of their work in the portfolio and analyzing results in writing within the portfolio. A program in social geography uses its portfolio requirement to develop project-working skills in its students. Another program in fashion apparel design use portfolios in a more traditional way: collecting photos of various stages of the design.

Many of the institutions reported adding a course in portfolio course specifically tasked with integrating knowledge from the various courses in the program. Others introduced a capstone or culminating portfolio requirement, encouraging students to integrate and synthesize their work over the full program.

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