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Abstract: This article describes a comparative study of the introduction of student portfolios in two departments of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands and Nottingham Trent University in the UK. Portfolios are designed to facilitate effective management of lifelong learning, to provide a record of achievements and to encourage self-reflection by students.
The justifications for the portfolio initiative are different in the two countries. At the Vrije Universiteit, the initiative arose within the University but is being implemented by individual faculties. There is no standard model of implementation. At Nottingham Trent University, portfolios are being introduced as a response to a government directive, as part of a lifelong learning portfolio that each individual will carry forward into their working life. The University’s response to this imperative is top-down and a University-wide model is being sought. The department model is one of several models that are being evaluated for this purpose.
This research project investigates whether these alternative starting points lead to differential responses from student users or not. Data are drawn from quantitative (questionnaires) and qualitative (interviews with managers, consultants and teachers) sources. Similarities and differences in students’ responses to the portfolio exercise are identified and discussed in terms of factors such as the way the portfolios are introduced, the incentives offered to complete them, the role of the lecturer and peers in the monitoring of study progress, the quality of self-regulative skills, and students’ learning expectations.