How do students approach such a task? A central challenge in this process is for students to provide documentation (the “proof”) that demonstrates an appropriate balance between theoretical learning and practical application.
That is, students must be able to separate and examine the “doing” (the experience) from its result (the learning that occurred). In other words, it is not enough to have simply done something well – it is necessary to know why certain actions were successful (e.g. produced results) and what leaning occurred – how did one’s understanding grow, change or become more complex through the course of your experience.
To quote Vito Perrone, an educational psychologist, “understanding is about making connections among and between things, about deep and not surface knowledge, and about greater complexity, not simplicity.”
As a student endeavors to compose a portfolio, the following key questions may be useful:
- In what ways did your experience promote or modify your understanding the subject?
- What were the different parts or pieces of the experience and how did they contribute to your understanding?
- What kind of choices did you make throughout the experience and how did these choices affect what you learned, “found out” or discovered about your subject?
- What do you know about the subject that someone without the experience might not know?
- What have you learned though your own initiative—reading, talking to people, doing? What do the experts say and how does or does not your experience support this information?
There are several goals portfolio assessment seeks to address. In a successful portfolio, the student:
- Identifies course(s) for which she or he would like to document equivalency
- Demonstrates knowledge equivalent to a particular course offered at Penn State
- Carefully reflects and document his or her experience to prove learning occurred
- Accepts the portfolio assessment process as a rigorous, authentic undertaking and not an “easy way to earn credits”