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Effectiveness And Professional Portfolios: A Content Analysis Of Students’ Portfolio Annotations

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Writing and Portfolios

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.471.1 - 13.471.25



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Paper Authors

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Jennifer Turns University of Washington

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Kejun Xu University of Washington

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Matt Eliot University of Washington

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Effectiveness and professional portfolios: A content analysis of students’ portfolio annotations Abstract

The engineering education community is exploring activities that can support the learning from experience. One such activity involves having students construct professional portfolios consisting of: 1) a professional statement in which the student makes claims about her/his preparedness for professional engineering practice, 2) artifacts representing aspects of the experience, and 3) annotations of the artifacts that discuss the relevance of the artifact (and the related learning experience) to the claims about preparedness for engineering practice made in the professional statement.

Annotations are particularly interesting because they represent a key to an effective overall portfolio and also potentially significant activity from an educational perspective. This paper addresses three issues associated with effectiveness: the idea of whether there is a singular notion of an effective annotation, the issue of what counts as an effective portfolio annotation, and the extent to which students can write effective annotations without support. In addition, this paper uses the answers to these questions to comment on the educational significance of writing effective annotations.


Because research tells us that “experience alone is a poor teacher,” [1] the engineering education community is exploring activities that can support the student’s making meaning (and learning) from their experiences. Recently, much attention has been devoted to having students construct portfolios—collections of artifacts, possibly annotated, put together to tell a story and/or support a set of claims. Such portfolios can provide students with an opportunity to reflect on their experiences, share their experiences with others, and see experiences as a building block for future activity [2,3]. In this paper, we focus on professional portfolios—portfolios in which the student makes an argument that they are prepared for professional practice.

Professional portfolios are particularly interesting from a learning perspective because of the potentially authentic way that they can help students look ahead to future and bridge their knowledge to the professional context. The possibility of authenticity comes from having students genuinely work on their portfolios with external audiences in mind (e.g., employers, future work colleagues, recruiters). An effective portfolio, in such a context, is one that convinces the external audience. These observations raise interesting questions. For example, how good are students at creating such effective portfolios and how do we help students create more effective portfolios? And, how might specific notions of what makes an effective portfolio help us, as educators, better understand the educational significance of constructing such portfolios.

This paper addresses questions related to effectiveness and educational significance in the context of one portfolio component—the annotation. While portfolios in contexts such as architecture may not include annotations, most portfolios created in engineering do. An


Turns, J., & Xu, K., & Eliot, M. (2008, June), Effectiveness And Professional Portfolios: A Content Analysis Of Students’ Portfolio Annotations Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4369

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