29 March 2012

Science portfolios

I’ve had several reminders this week about the importance of having students do stuff. Not just answer questions.
  • This video has a lot of interesting stuff about embodied cognition. We think better when we move. (Hat tip to Julie Dirksen.)
  • This video a reminder about how chasing points can kills motivation.
  • I have a student trying visual notetaking who’s showing improvement (hat tip to Sunni Brown; for a great introduction of visual notetaking, see here).
These reminded me of an idea that’s been rattling around in my head for a while.

Rather than having students turn in a series of prescribed assignments, I want to have undergraduate students develop a portfolio of work.

Portfolios are common in the arts. A scientific CV is sort of a portfolio, with publications being the representative works. Publications are just typically looked up rather than looked at. But ultimately, the goal of both is to have a collection of finished, tangible products to show off.

I like the idea of students making something that they can show off a lot. Because ultimately, their potential employers or supervisors they’ll work with after they graduate are going to want someone who can make stuff and deliver it.

The problem is that I’m not quite sure what a portfolio for an undergraduate science student might look like.

I’ve come close to the portfolio idea in my writing classes. I’ve often had students create a blog, with the idea that it might be something they can point to at the end of the semester as an accomplishment. Of course, there’s other kinds of other content that you could create for the Internet; podcasts and videos are obvious choices.

But there my ideas run dry.

What else could an undergraduate create in the course of a semester? Something that at the end of the semester, they could point to and say – maybe even with a little pride – “I made that.”

Picture by Jason Schlachet on Flickr; used under a Creative Commons license.

1 comment:

ExLabJunkie said...

Great idea! Some examples of work:

1) interview a scientist

2) write a science communication article for a newspaper

3) write a grant proposing a collaboration with someone in a different field of science (i.e. cross-pollinating synergism)