2008 Teaching and Learning Symposium

2:30-4:30 p.m., May 6, 2008
HUB Ballroom

Session Description



Unveiling experience thinking and identity thinking: A look into the educational significance of engineering students creating professional portfolios

Jennifer Turns, Kejun Xu, and Matt Eliot - Technical Communication

The engineering education community is exploring activities that can support learning from experience. Theories of expert knowledge, transfer, and reflection underscore the importance of students connecting educational experiences to future engineering practice. However, little systematic investigation has been done about students’ abilities to make connections between prior learning, current experience, and future professional life.

We have been investigating this issue via asking students to create a professional portfolio where students explained and provided evidence of ways in which their past coursework, experiences, and accomplishments have prepared them for future engineering practice. These portfolios consist of three elements: a professional statement where students describe their qualifications for their engineering profession; artifacts (i.e., papers, project deliverables, etc.); and annotations explaining how an individual artifact is evidence of a particular qualification.

In our current study, we worked with 37 engineering students as they constructed cross-curricular professional portfolios (professional portfolios in which the artifacts were drawn from all curricular and extra-curricular experiences to date) and collected data from these students via extensive open-ended surveys. Our analysis efforts focus on how the students talk about their past experiences and also about their identities as engineering students and future engineers. Participants have reported seeing past experiences in a new light, starting to see their experiences as a certain type of professional capital, better understanding what they wanted to do in the future, and seeing themselves as more of an engineer that they had thought.

Overall, the results are providing an understanding of how professional portfolios may serve as a tool to bridge students’ educational experiences and future engineering practices. Our poster will focus on the themes introduced in this description: the overall context of the research, the type of portfolios we have been studying, the design of the current study, and emerging results from the study.



Index of Symposium Presenters