A case study of adults in college who developed an experiential learning portfolio

Judith O Brown, Florida International University


This single-case study provides a description and explanation of selected adult students' perspectives on the impact that the development of an experiential learning portfolio had on their understanding of their professional and personal lives. The conceptual framework that undergirded the study included theoretical and empirical studies on adult learning, experiential learning, and the academic quality of nontraditional degree programs with a portfolio component. The study employed qualitative data collection techniques of individual interviews, document review, field notes, and researcher journal. A purposive sample of 8 adult students who completed portfolios as a component of their undergraduate degrees participated in the study. The 4 male and 4 female students who were interviewed represented 4 ethnic/racial groups and ranged in age from 32 to 55 years. Each student's portfolio was read prior to the interview to frame the semi-structured interview questions in light of written portfolio documents. Students were interviewed twice over a 3-month period. The study lasted 8 months from data collection to final presentation of the findings. The data from interview transcriptions and student portfolios were analyzed, categorized, coded, and sorted into 4 major themes and 2 additional themes and submitted to interpretive analysis. Participants' attitudes, perceptions, and opinions of their learning from the portfolio development experience were presented in the findings, which were illustrated through the use of excerpts from interview responses and individual portfolios. The participants displayed a positive reaction to the learning they acquired from the portfolio development process, regardless of their initial concerns about the challenges of creating a portfolio. Concerns were replaced by a greater recognition and understanding of their previous professional and personal accomplishments and their ability to reach future goals. Other key findings included (a) a better understanding of the role work played in their learning and development, (b) a deeper recognition of the impact of mentors and role models throughout their lives, (c) an increase in writing and organizational competencies, and (d) a sense of self-discovery and personal empowerment.

Subject Area

Adult education|Continuing education|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Brown, Judith O, "A case study of adults in college who developed an experiential learning portfolio" (1999). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI9936897.