Agnes Scott Portfolio Thinking: To Portfolio (a verb)

image: overhead cropped view of a perosn in a colorful striped sweater reaching out to ahand in a black cuffed grey coat. No faces are shown.

Thoughts on the state of the Agnes Scott Digital Portfolio

The ASC digital portfolio is an action and a mindset. My notes from today’s meeting on SUM 400 re-invigorate me because I am reminded of the capacity and possibilites (more like probabilities) of a well-considered reflective expression of educationi in the liberal arts.

What better link to professional success than to elaborate (with evidence) in a digital environment the importance and relevance of one’s education?

Thank you Nicole Stamant, (Goddess of intellectual and social acuity, dyanmic specificity and encouragment général) for leading a great discussion and introduction to the reasoning for and relevance of the capstone course SUM400.

Nell’s takeaway NOTES from today’s discussion:
1. In SUM400 the portfolio transitions from a learning portfolio (developed over time during the student’s education) into is a professional opportunity. In it students are able to demonstrate their skills (general and departmental) in thinking, interpretation, expression and technology and how they are relevant for future problem solving in general. How does their analytical practice over time relate to their ability for future thinking?

2. The portfolio is important as a general education requirement as an endcap to the introductory experience in LDR 101. Providing a scheduled space to look back and make sense of why liberal learning is important means that students have the opportunity to make exciting connections about who they are. In the fourthh year the students have the developmental capacity to do more than they could when they arrived, and they will see it when given the place, space and guidance to do so. As a teacher, it’s fulfilling to watch.

3. Interdisciplinarity in this course is exciting. As an instructor it’s rich to see some students that I met in early summit courrses and see where they are now. I meet students from outside my own major that I otherwise don’t have a chance to meet. This puts me more in touch and more engaged withh these students who otherwise remain siloed. My experience watching the graduates walk across the stage at commencement is widened and more connected. In addition the peer learning and exposure of how students in varied disciplines address similar content is a strong learning tool for students, especially because the design and approach from particular disciplines is NOT the same. People seem to be people, and think in different ways. This, it seems to me, underscores the very nature of liberal arts learning: it’s humanizing. Problems are solved by people, not by scientists or artists, but by scientists and artists. The portfolio as a body shows that we are all thinkers, and that the variation in the compendium of ways of thinking is what makes strong solutions. Or at the very least, this variation is what makes community (and living) interesting. I think it’s formative and affirmational for students to have exposure to a faculty member who is not their major advisor to guide and confirm their abilities. It’s a sanctioned, respected outside adult that recognizes their worth–a boost to confidence.

4. As Lisa Jones, assistant director of the Center for Digital and Visual Liiteracy suggested this morning–the portfolio is structured so that students engage in it at five pivotal pointis in their SUMMIT curriculum. The capstone is especially meaninful as the place where they put it all together.

5. The portfolio is an integration system: every student synthesizes their own education. In the portfolio a student addresses the whys and hows of their educaiton. Our classes aren’t geared toward reflective thinking about why she has attended a liberal arts college (what is the relevance of that?) or why she’s gone to a women’s college (is that important to you?) or why she’s selected a particular discipline. In the portfolio space student’s individualize and make explicit to the world, and to themselves, what they value. It is an important step in self advocacy. When they are asked to list their skills, for example, they see that they have skills. To write it down helps them to own their education. The more practice a student has with saying what she knows, especially with examples, the more confident she becomes in claiming herself and her skills, knowledge and critical thinking abilities.

6. It would be helpful for showing the value of SUMMIT to vignette the experieinces we have all witnessed of student’s “aha” moments during the process. These happen at various stages, and I wonder if we could create a kudos page for instructors to mark the stories and we can follow up with them as PR web videos. Maybe Lisa Jones and Anastasia Owen (class of 2018, co-creator of the portfolio project and co-creator of the CDVL, and currently Instructional Support Fellow) could direct videos that capture the experience of employers and studetns who have had post graduate success because of their portfolios.

7. copyright modules produced by Chris Bishop and Casey Long in the McCain library are SO THOUGHTFUL and thorough that everyone should be made aware of them and have access to them to integrate into regular courses.

8. Copyright is complicated! We want to make it simple and easy, but it is not. It is part of mission of honor to know and understand this complicated process. We are used to learning a thing and then “knowing” it. But copyright requires a grapple every single time. Copyright is imprecise and is all about critical thinking and interpretation. In some ways it is an excellent example of liberal learning agency.

An important artifact to include in the portfolio would be a post that articulates the four essential questions necessary to ask about determining copyright rights. If in her own words the student can speak to the critical thinking necessary, she demonstrates understanding of the complicated issues involved. Example reflection prompt: What is the point of copyright? Why is it important? What are the critical questions to ask to determining if material is copyrighted and how to properly attribute its source?

9. Portfolio culture. The introduction of the portfolio as a required curricular device at ASC is relatively recent. However, ITS (as ETC–educatioinal technology center) and the CDVL, have been working on it for many years. It was first considered as a part of a Quality Enhancement Program, by Richard Perry (Emeritus Philosophy) and Christine Cozzens. The portfolio has flourished on the web as a powerful tool. As an educatioinal tool it is now fundamental technology. The problem as I see it at Agnes Scott, is that there is still a need for a fuller understanding across the curriculum for disciplines to capture the power and capacity of the tool. Thinking about it in a limited way–as a product, or a website, or a blog, is shortsighted. While I think we have come a long way, I wish I understood how to how to generate more curiosity among my colleagues on the potential of the technology.

10. Nicole had the idea of asking students at the midterm of SUM400 to walk her through their portfolios. I like the idea of a short video (that could be posted on the homepage) of showing your guest around. As a “Let it begin with me” situation, I will create that for this blog. Also, I plan to set up a weekly portfolio making group, for students and faculty, to simply join me in a synchronous meeting to work on our portfolios for an hour. At the very least this will provide a space and time as a framework that holds me to working out some of the ideas I want to do in my own portfolio. We can share screens, work out problems, consider together, or just work independently. I will advertise the idea in the Irvine.

11. I would like to design more generic projects that any faculty could use in their courses to leverage students portfolios. For example, if at the completion of projects, essays, and experiments students were required (for some nominal amount of credit) to include a reflection in their portfolio that answers:

  • what was the point of this project (paper, experiment, performance); what was the goal? What did I learn?
  • How is it relevant to the class?
  • How is it relevant to my discipline?
  • How is relevant to me?
  • What skills did I practice? Did I learn new skills?
  • What is my strongsuit in this particular project? Where can I improve? Do I want to improve or learn other skills? What steps might I employ toward those goals?
  • Do I care about this? Why? How is it relevant to me and what I value?

12. students (and faculty) could keep an ongoing additive record of skills learned. The skills might be technological, social, critical thinking etc. On a page where the skills are listed, one could link to examples where the skills are practiced.

13. As a persuasive note to advocacy for the portfolio: the more our students observe and descriibe their accomplishments, the more confidence they have in themselves. The portfolio requires that students look at their own hard work, and take credit of themselves for themselves. In a world where women are taught to self-doubt and self-deprecate, the actions that are required for portfolio thinking are a transformative tool. When a student sees her accomplishments laid out before her, designed and composed by her, it is impossible to deny her potency.