Remember Dustin Hoffman as “The Graduate,” floating aimlessly—and not very relaxed—in his parents’ swimming pool? He has just successfully completed his undergraduate education—he has been “processed” through a prestigious university system and has come through with flying colors. One small detail has been overlooked and which he has only just realized. He has no real idea why he went to college, having never questioned or internalized the expectation, and now having no further system to be “processed” through, he has no idea where he’s going.
One way to save students from this gut clenching too-late realization is to encourage them to ask themselves where they are going at the outset of a college career or at the end of a high school career. The Life Vision Portfolio is designed just for this purpose. Activities and writing prompts encourage students to reflect on who they are and where they’ve been; appraise their strengths, talents and desires; and set realizable goals for improvement, leading to a realization of the vision. These self-defined goals can then serve as the criteria used during periodic self-assessments, so not only does the portfolio help students construct for themselves a sense of direction, but it also encourages their development as self-growers by providing occasions to habitually self-assess.
Use of the Life Vision Portfolio should lead to better learning environments that teachers as well as students will appreciate. Once learners gain a life vision in which their learning plays a role and in which there is a clear connection between the learning and the learners’ self-chosen goals, they are much more motivated to construct their own knowledge rather than to simply have it pre-constructed and delivered to them. This, of course leads to greater student buy-in. As Kathleen Burke says, “Student buy-in allows for a much richer course for both the students and the instructor. When student buy-in occurs, students begin to ask probing questions, take risks, work with others, participate fully in class, accept increasing challenges, welcome new situations, and assess performance willingly." (excerpt from the Faculty Guidebook)
The Life Vision Portfolio is well suited for use in a college success course (taken at the end of high school or at the start of a college degree), but as we all know there are many transitions in life that cause us all to ask ourselves “Now what?” the Life Vision Portfolio is a useful inventory taking, goal setting tool to use at the start of any academic or professional endeavor, whether it be at the beginning of an undergraduate degree, the beginning of a graduate program, or the beginning of a transition in one’s professional career. It is worth taking the time to honestly assess one’s self--one’s values and strengths, preferences and talents, aspirations and areas for improvement—and to set goals—long-term as well as short-term, fanciful as well as practical, and to outline realistic achievable plans for realizing those dreams.
Life Vision Portfolio author Janice Mettauer, writing instructor at Madison Area Technical College (MATC) and director of MATC’s Writing Center, is able to make the Portfolio do double duty with her students, using the Portfolio as a prompt in free writing exercises.
Students need to do some free writing every day; it is often easier to write about oneself; and so the questions and writing prompts in the Life Vision Portfolio are excellent writing exercises. This allows Mettauer to elicit multiple learning outcomes in a highly efficient way. In the future, the Life Vision Portfolio may be adapted to specific degree programs as more instructors find innovative uses for this valuable product.
The Life Vision Portfolio comes in the three-ring binder with tabs for each of the eight sections (Personal Historical Research, Initiating a Personal Exploration, Self-Analysis, Researching Your Environment, Goal Setting, Life Learning and Performance Skills, Meaning of Life, and Growth & Improvement). The list price is $25.