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The Dialectics of Goal Setting and Monitoring: Two Students' Experiences with Portfolio Construction

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

They're Not "Soft" Skills!

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1441.1 - 22.1441.15



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Paper Authors


Brook Sattler University of Washington

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Brook Sattler is a Ph.D. student in Human Centered Design & Engineering. Her research interests include the design and use of critical reflection methods to support inclusive teaching practices, and intellectual development.

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Ashley Ann Thompson University of Washington

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Ashley (Babcock) Thompson is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow at the University of Washington. She is a first year Ph.D. student in the department of Human Centered Design and Engineering. Her research interests include the effects of interdisciplinary teams on engineering design creativity, gender and diversity issues within engineering education, and reflective practices as a means to foster learning within the classroom.

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Jennifer A. Turns University of Washington

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Jennifer Turns is an Associate Professor in the Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering at the University of Washington. She is interested in all aspects of engineering education, including how to support engineering students in reflecting on experience, how to help engineering educators make effective teaching decisions, and the application of ideas from complexity science to the challenges of engineering education.

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Deborah Kilgore University of Washington

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Deborah Kilgore is a Research Scientist in the Center for Engineering Learning & Teaching at the University of Washington. Her particular areas of expertise are the learning sciences, qualitative methods, and women & education.

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The Dialectics of Goal Setting: Two Students’ Experiences with Portfolio ConstructionThe relationship between students’ goals and academic achievement has a long tradition in education andlearning theory. Recent work in engineering education has provided more discipline-specific understanding ofthe goals that engineering students may have. One challenge of this discourse is the potential portrayal ofstudent goals as static, well-defined, and well-understood by the students themselves. Another issue is a lackof attention to the dynamics of goal monitoring, and even the complexities of fully understanding whether oneis making progress toward one’s goals. Reflection, or looking at experiences in order to understand what hasbeen learned from the experience and how the experience has contributed toward personal goals, has beendifficult to put into practice in engineering education. Portfolio construction is an activity that has been linkedto helping students with the processes of goal setting and goal monitoring. As a result, studying students’experiences with portfolio construction can help illuminate the dynamics of these processes.In our current work, we are exploring these issues by studying the experiences of students working onprofessional portfolios in a studio-like environment. The professional portfolio is explained to the students asan argument about their preparedness for their future in engineering practice. Students are specificallyinstructed to compose portfolios consisting of a professional statement (where they state the basics of theirargument) and annotated artifacts (products or by-products of their activities which serve as evidence of theirclaims about aspects of preparedness). The studio aspect of the work captures the notion of students workingin small groups over time, peer reviewing each others’ portfolio elements and brainstorming upcomingelements. A key feature of our current work is the opportunity to work with a small number of students over ayear, as they engaged in three consecutive portfolio studios.In this paper, we describe and also compare and contrast the experiences of two students as they workedthrough three consecutive portfolio studios. The two students selected for the analysis are bothunderrepresented students (an African American male and a Caucasian female) who were in their senior yearduring participation in the studio. The students differ in that they came from different departments and hadidentified different trajectories upon graduation. In this analysis, we are specifically interested in the ways thatgoal setting played out over time for each student. To answer this question, we are analyzing interview datafrom each participant. The portfolios that the students constructed serve as a backdrop for the analysis. Bothstudents had interesting experiences around the ways in which they perceived goals and experienced the goalsetting process. One clarified his goals and found gaps in his experience. The other recognized a disconnectbetween personal and perceived professional goals, which she sought to reconcile. Interestingly, the interactionbetween the two students also played a significant role in the goal setting dynamic.

Sattler, B., & Thompson, A. A., & Turns, J. A., & Kilgore, D. (2011, June), The Dialectics of Goal Setting and Monitoring: Two Students' Experiences with Portfolio Construction Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18513

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