As I type, members of the ETS staff are working with a group of students from the Penn State Schreyer’s Honors College to get them going on a very cool new project we are a part of. About a year ago, I was having lunch with Dean Chris Brady from SHC and we started talking about how important it is for students to think critically about the things they are learning both in and out of the classroom. The thing Dean Brady talks about is the importance of the things that go on outside of the classrooms in an honors education. We talked about how powerful blogs could be as ePortfolios and really looked at how categories could be easily used to link program goals and outcomes to student posts. We promised each other we’d find a way to make it happen.
A year later and I am thrilled to see we are launching a pilot with first year Honor Scholars who self selected in based on a great post by Dean Brady that will see them posting their learning and life experiences over the course of the semester, year, and perhaps their entire college career. One of the key ingredients here is the linkage between the SHC mission and the students’ reflections. Scholars will use the three main themes of the mission as categories … these themes are:
- Achieving academic excellence
- Building a global perspective
- Creating opportunities for leadership and civic engagement
So as the Scholars move through their academic careers they will reflect on events in an ongoing fashion and critically select the categories that match the experience. The other piece that makes this very interesting is how Dean Brady envisions these Scholars’ advisors using the portfolios to assist in academic advising. The way it typically works is that as a student comes to visit an advisor for a meeting, the advisor pulls the transcripts and talks to the student about their curricular progress. With the added notion of the category driven portfolio, these same advisors can quickly use the categories to filter content and get a more complete look at how the student is progressing through their college career. I am very eager to see this take shape.
My colleague, Erin Long, is the lead instructional designer working on the project with the Scholars. She wrote a post that outlines some of the things we’ll be asking the Scholars to think about as they participate. I like situations where we end up with “wins” on multiple levels — students thinking critically about their intellectual development, faculty more actively participating in the advising expereicne, and us getting honest feedback in a real world use of the technology. We’ll be reporting back throughout the year … are there other things we should be considering along the way?