EPortfolios are often seen as an assignment connected to academic courses or programs. However, other institutions have seen that ePortfolios, when designed for students, have a larger impact and can easily be connected to co-curricular activities. We are starting with ePortfolios by giving students the chance to think about and design one for their internship or student employment.

Felten and Lambert (2020) identify four principles in their book Relationship-Rich Education that create the environment for students to feel valued – and to matter.  These principles are

  • Every student must experience genuine welcome and deep care.
  • Every student must be inspired to learn.
  • Every student must develop a web of significant relationships.
  • Every student must explore questions of meaning and purpose. (17-18)

As supervisors of student employees, we know how important these four principles are.  Asking students to develop an ePortfolio ties in with all of these principles as we strive to care for our students and their work and ideas, as we inspire them to learn new skill sets and practice them, as we guide student employees to form relationships within the work environment with other professionals, and, finally as we ask students to reflect on the purpose of the work they are doing in relation to their academic and other life experiences.  We can help provide our students with “inescapable opportunities” (18).

What do ePortfolios look like and why are they valuable?

As we are still at the starting point for Carleton ePortfolios, we only have a couple of these examples are from Carleton.

You can build your own ePortfolio to get a sense of what the students are working with – this could be in addition to how you build out your Carleton professional profile in the Directory.

The value of an ePortfolio lies in its uniqueness. Resumes, cover letters, and c.v.s can feel generic. Especially in large companies, the reading and evaluation of resumes and cover letters is “outsourced” to algorithms/AI, making it potentially more important to have an additional way to stand out. Students at the 2023 AAEEBL conference commented on their perception that they had been successful in being admitted to graduate school because of their portfolios. This does not necessarily mean that the product of the ePortfolio created this opportunity but that it in combination with the process of creating the ePortfolio and the deep reflection associated with this creation gave them ways to think about and synthesize their experiences that made their applications successful.

Helping student employees be successful by providing feedback

In The Power of Feedback (2007), Hattie and Timperley define four levels of feedback:

  1. Feedback about the task or product (“You need to include more about your actual work.”)
  2. Feedback about the process (“This page may make more sense if you use the strategies we talked about earlier.”)
  3. Feedback about self-regulation (“You already know the key features of the opening of an argument. Check to see whether you have incorporated them on your home page.”)
  4. Feedback directed to the self as a person (“You are a great student.” “Great effort.”)

To learn about constructive feedback check out Carleton’s Learning and Teaching Center Effective Feedback resource.  Note in particular their points about constructive feedback and how to frame feedback.  While this document was originally written for faculty working with students in academic activities, the same principles apply to the kind of help you can offer to your student employees’ writing. 

This resource, together with principles from Relationship-Rich Education, provide guidelines on how to work with students on their ePortfolios.

1. Encourage students to believe in their own capacities and talents (25)

A 2018 poll at Elon University, mirroring an earlier Gallup poll, showed that

  • Deep relationships during one’s college years improve the sense of belonging and, connected with it, a sense that the college experience was “very rewarding.”
  • Not enough students have this experience.

We as supervisors play a vital role in ensuring that our student colleagues are mentored and that our relationship with them allows them to grow as human beings in a complex world.

2. Encourage students to ask for help.

Students may have a hard time asking for help as this could be perceived as not knowing enough and not belonging.  Depending on the work environment, your students may be close by, and you can easily ask if they need help.  If they work more independently, checking in with them may be harder.  Model asking for help in a genuine way, for example, asking them to help you with something you don’t know how to do.

Provide timely, specific, actionable, kind feedback

Providing feedback on someone’s writing or other creative work can be a daunting task, especially if you have not done this a lot before. We will offer workshops but until then, please consider asking questions, especially when you are not clear on the connections your student is making. The Career Center and Student Employment office can also provide guidance on how to work with your student.