Student Portfolios and Advisement

Phil Brocato   Ed.D.student, University of Southern California
Review of Literature
	According to Funk and Bradley (1994) the portfolio approach to 
advisement provides a vehicle for assessment and decision making.  By 
developing structured areas bound by a contract, students develop a 
portfolio that promotes academic and social growth. Tailored to each 
student, the portfolio approach builds a relationship that allows the 
advisor to go beyond the typical advisement session.
	Stowe (1996) believes that advisement and higher education are 
based on a modernist perspective of rationality, prediction, and control.  
In line with modern-postmodern debate, Stowe introduces the concept of 
chaos theory.  Simply, this theory takes into consideration that there 
is more to advising students in an orderly fashion (modernist approach).  
He suggest that the postmodern advisor be aware of the disorderly chaos 
a student brings to the advisement session, so order may emerge out of 
the session. 

Current Issue
	The unfamiliarity associated with constant-change can be chaotic 
for individuals unaware and not willing to adapt to this change.  As 
aspects of society change rapidly, individuals and institutions within the 
society must change.  Scientific reasoning is based on the belief that 
there is a correlation between human action and outcomes-predictability.  
And, in a systematic world, this premise ensures people that constant-change 
is present, but does not affect their level of comfortability.  In the 
institution of education, advisors, generally, become very comfortable in 
advising all students on a continuum of order, so they may obtain a college 
degree.  What the orderly advisor often overlooks are the unpredictable 
feelings, cultural backgrounds, and issues today's student brings to an 
advisement session.  It is essential that academic advisors in the next 
millennium be aware of the complexities that students bring to an advisement 
session.  In doing so, an advisors' role is to move beyond the norm by 
preparing for a student with his/her own set of issues that seem disorderly 
compared to the typical orderly advisement session.  
	In the beginning, academic advising was done by the president of 
the college.  And, in 1876, faculty advisers were initiated at John Hopkins 
University. As the curricula changed at colleges and universities in this 
country, so did the advisement.  Since the 1960's, cultural change in the 
institution of education has challenged the role of academic advisors.  The 
cultural and special needs of students at the time was evident in the 
recognition of Arthur Chikering's theoretical perspective (1992, Gordon).  
In keeping with the scientific method, theories, approaches, models, etc. 
began to develop that took into account the academic, social, and vocational 
welfare of the student during an advisement session.  For instance, 
Chickering identifies seven developmental tasks: achieving competence; 
managing emotions; becoming autonomous; establishing identity; etc. as
necessary for advisement. More recently, "he would place more emphasis on 
intellectual and interpersonal competence" (Gordon, 1992).  At the same 
time, adult, career, moral and learning theories and theorists dealt with 
the changing needs of students.  However, understanding individual students 
and their unique needs is paramount to an orderly-based theoretical model.  
If we are to be aware of constant-change in society and in our students' 
needs, we must know that students with unique needs can be perceived as 
disorderly; thus, it is an advisor's role to develop order out of disorder 
as the advisement process is transpiring.
	A postmodern advisor goes beyond the order involved in academic 
advisement by understanding a student's issues as they emerge during an 
advisement session.  This discernment is paramount to the actual advisement 
session itself.  Stowe (1996) views apparent chaos as a teachable moment 
in the advisement process.  In line with the postmodern advisor, the 
advisor-student interaction may build and end in a relationship that 
evolves over the student's academic career.  However, it is important 
that the postmodern advisor have "adequate time, open exploration of 
alternatives, encouragement, faith that order will emerge, and occasional 
forgiveness" as tools for advising (Stowe, 1996).  Most advisors will 
associate a negative score or probation to a student's ability to succeed 
in the classroom.  Conversely, if the advisor is to consider the individual 
student, he/she must not stereotype a student by scores alone.  
Standardized test scores are cause-effect and show correlation, but they 
do not represent the whole student.  If we are to retain students through 
advisement, it is essential that academic advisors comprehend all parts 
of the student holistically, not the sum of each part.  Advisors as they 
advise have to realize that the initial interaction may not produce 
immediate results in a linear fashion, but may be unpredictable and show 
student improvement as an understanding and relationship evolves between 
the student and advisor in that process.  In support of this perspective, 
some believe a portfolio approach grounds the student-advisor relationship 
and results in productive advisement.      
	Funk and Bradley (1994) see the portfolio approach as being tailored 
to an individual student's needs.  Away from traditional advisement and 
concentrated on the special needs of students, the portfolio concept when 
mutually agreed upon can be used as assessment tool.  Although this approach 
does dig deeper into the individual needs of the student; at the same time, 
the importance of understanding unstable reactions that are critical in the 
student-advisor relationship are not overlooked.  The portfolio approach 
includes specific guidelines that resemble a contract.  Within the contract 
are important areas such as study skills assessment, learning styles 
inventories, test scores and grades, anecdotal records, and career 
information that helps the student clarify goals, identify problems, and 
develop solutions with the aid of an advisor.  This approach over time 
allows the advisor to observe students' needs as they arise, so that the 
whole person is considered as the advisement process takes place.  Unlike 
the postmodern approach, the portfolio approach to advisement ensures that 
whatever disorderly or chaotic behavior a student exhibits will be attended 
to over a period of time, not immediately.

	All three authors cited in this brief research paper are concerned 
with the welfare of students.  However, Gordon sees advisement and unique 
issues of each student as being handled orderly by a theoretical approach 
etc.  On the other hand, Funk, Bradley, and Stowe understand that there is 
more to advisement than handling each problem in an orderly fashion.  If we 
are to advise students amidst constant-change, identifying problems and 
immediately or over time dealing with those problems as individual cases is 
foremost in proper advisement.  Each student has his/her own set of 
complexities; it is our job to ensure that students learn to adapt, change, 
and prepare for an academic career, and at the same time, understand and 
develop complexities into an order that benefits the student.


Funk, Gary D., Bradley, Jan, (1994).  Student Portfolios: A Comprehensive 
	Approach to Academic Advisement.  NACADA Journal, 14, 46-49.
Gordon, Virginia N. (1992).  Handbook of Academic Advising. Greenwood 
Stowe, Donald E., (1996).  Postmodern View of Advisement in Higher 
	Education.  NACADA Journal, 16, 16-18.