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 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.