A study of the Life Work Portfolio: student reactions

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Virginia Tech

Portfolio, from the Latin words meaning "to carry and leaf," originally referred to a case in which to carry paper or drawings. This concept has now expanded to include a collection of like items (stocks or artist’s portfolio) into the realm of education, self directed assessment, and career development consideration.

The original idea of the career portfolio was to integrate the National Career Development Guidelines (1989) into a comprehensive career guidance program. Get A Life (1992), a career portfolio developed by the National Occupational Information Coordinating Committee and the Maine Occupational Information Coordinating Committee, was field-tested in 1992. The ultimate success of Get A Life led to the development of the Life Work Portfolio. This product which targeted adults was pilot tested in 1995. Even though the Life Work Portfolio underwent a pilot study prior to publication, this study was the first to look at the Life Work Portfolio in depth, under controlled conditions.

The Spring Semester 1996 orientation classes of New River Community College in Dublin, Virginia, were used for this study. Two groups of nontraditional students (ages 23 and up) and two groups of traditional students (ages 18-22) were selected on a volunteer basis (n=26). One nontraditional and one traditional group participated in a structured group setting and completed the Life Work Portfolio in a series of four 1-1½ hour sessions, one per week for four consecutive weeks. One nontraditional and one traditional group completed the Life Work Portfolio in an unstructured setting with help available upon request for a period of four weeks.

All participants took part in a focus group at the end of four weeks to elicit responses related to the usefulness of the Life Work Portfolio. Participants completed the Life Work Portfolio Project User Reaction Form and McDaniels Career Transitions Considerations (MCTC) at the end of the fourth session. A descriptive analysis of the portfolios was completed by each participant.

Results of the study indicate that the Life Work Portfolio provides a viable tool for traditional and nontraditional students at New River Community College in gathering information, skill identification, goal setting, enhancing self-confidence, and other issues related to successful career transitions. The Life Work Portfolio provided the appropriate structure for the process of lifespan career development to be understood and acted upon.