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A Quick Tour of Four Portfolio Programs (The Council Chronicle, March 04)

Teachers and schools around the country are using portfolios to boost student success as well as to measure the effectiveness of their curricula.

LaGuardia Community College

They're moving forward in piloting an e-portfolio system for all students and across all disciplines at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, New York.

According to J. Elizabeth Clark, associate professor of English, the school is seeking a new way of understanding students more fully and is looking at the portfolios to gauge program development, not to assess individual students.

Last year's pilot with students in first-year courses, capstone courses, and a variety of other courses was "wildly successful," Clark reports. This year, the focus is on finding a common point of entry for students to begin their portfolios. The plan is to start the process this spring through "first-year academies."

The school is building an e-portfolio system in conjunction with a vendor. The goal is to allow students to create multiple portfolios for different audiences and purposes--for individual classes, family and friends, and career efforts.

Portland State University

In Oregon, Portland State University is using electronic portfolios in first-year student courses that are required for general education. Judy Patton, director of University Studies, reports that last year 80 percent of these Freshman Inquiry classes made use of e-portfolios, and this year all will do so.

She says that there is a common yearlong portfolio assignment based on the four goals of the program, one of which is communication. Each year a random sample of the portfolios is reviewed for program assessment, and the data are given to Freshman Inquiry teams, who are asked to discuss and revise their curriculum based on the results. In addition, the school is assessing student writing in the portfolios and will be researching the impact of e-portfolios on student learning.

Virginia State University

Virginia State University in Petersburg has been working with print portfolios in their two required writing classes. Freddy Thomas, professor and chair of the Department of Languages and Literature, says a goal is to extend the portfolio to writing-intensive courses throughout students' college careers to gain a better sense of student proficiency in writing across departments.

He says the school is also working on implementing an electronic portfolio for English education majors, which will be used as part of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) evaluations. Students will be asked to demonstrate their learning over all four years via the portfolio.

St. Olaf College

At St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, students who want to design their own major are asked to create a Web portfolio that demonstrates the connections they've made in their studies.

David Booth, associate professor of religion and director of the Center for Integrative Studies, says that the college has identified four "habits of mind" as central to students' development in liberal arts. Booth and his colleagues believe that Web portfolios are uniquely suited to developing these habits of integrative thinking, reflective thinking, thinking in a community, and thinking in context.

He says that the college is exploring further possible uses for electronic portfolios, such as in the first-year writing program, to increase the cohesiveness of the first-year experience. Some established interdisciplinary programs are also thinking about including Web portfolios, he adds.

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