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Faye Vowell and Janet Wallet-Ortiz, Western New Mexico University

Why use an advising portfolio?

An advising portfolio provides a rich and diverse way to document advising expertise. Portfolio use is increasingly prevalent in higher education. Student portfolios are used to demonstrate that students have met the desired outcomes of a given major or program. Faculty use teaching portfolios to illustrate their mastery when they apply for promotion or tenure. Universities create portfolios for a number of purposes and audiences—such as accreditation or student recruitment. Portfolios provide flexibility; advisors can use both quantitative and qualitative measures and can customize their portfolio to fit their particular advising situation. So using a portfolio to document advising performance puts advisors in the mainstream of assessment activities which are becoming more demanding as well as more sophisticated in their call for accountability.

Portfolios can respond to a variety of needs both formative and summative. A formative portfolio documents growth; it is most often used for personal development. A summative portfolio illustrates mastery in a specified area and might be used for an annual performance review or to apply for promotion or tenure. When assembling a portfolio, it is important to know exactly who the audience is in order to assemble the most convincing evidence and to know the purpose of the portfolio.

Assembling the Portfolio

Consider including the following artifacts: an advising philosophy statement, advising goal/objective(s) to be addressed in this portfolio, advisee demographics, your specific advising responsibilities, evidence of mastery or growth in addressing these responsibilities, and a reflective essay which provides the context for the artifacts or items included.

Your advising philosophy is a personal statement growing out of your own beliefs and experience. It should fit within the institution’s mission as well as the advising mission statement of your campus. Advising goals/objectives need to be appropriate for the specific portfolio. Student demographics would address the kinds and number of your advisees. This information will probably be directly related to your advising responsibilities or job description. All of these would provide a context for the evidence of mastery or growth in meeting job responsibilities.

For example, a summative portfolio created for an annual review could have as a goal to demonstrate expertise in critical advising areas deemed important on your campus. If confidentiality and accuracy are the critical issues on your campus, you could document training in the legal and ethical procedures regarding the release of student information. You could include examples of current, dated instruments that show degree plans, general education requirements, interview questions, or special institutional forms and demonstrate awareness of procedures for each item. You could discuss your use of the advice of colleagues to keep abreast of any specific changes that may not yet be in the catalog. Accessibility and advocacy create powerful and fruitful relationships with advisees. Crucial to this relationship is helping students feel capable of succeeding (Rendon, 1994). Document what you do to make students comfortable and validated as well as help them define abilities and match them with personal, educational, and career goals.

Evidence of Advising Outcomes: Qualitative and Quantitative

Self-assessment tools using rubrics with specific concrete goals and scales can identify obstacles and measure progress in overcoming them. Timelines for projects met or deadlines delayed (and reasons why) could be recorded and submitted. The results from advising evaluations can be collected, analyzed, and presented.

Summaries of advising stories can be a focus, in addition to such things as numbers of advisees, number of times an advisor is requested, and the number of advisees retained from year to year.

Evidence of various efforts to address student needs can demonstrate concern for student validation inside the advising session. Letters of support from colleagues can attest to your willingness to “go the extra mile” to find answers for advisees. Advisors could also include copies of any training/development certificates, awards, honors, presentations and/or publications.

All of the above could be woven into a reflective statement or essay that would showcase the advisor’s baseline and subsequent growth in various specific areas used in evaluation or to demonstrate mastery in job responsibilities.


In today’s climate of increased accountability and diminishing resources, portfolios demonstrate quality advising outcomes that are flexible and can be customized to individual situations. Two large challenges exist in creating a portfolio: finding time and motivation for reflection and creating a process that is not too time consuming.

Faye Vowell
Western New Mexico University

Janet Wallet-Ortiz
Western New Mexico University

Cite this article using APA style as: Vowell, F., & Wallett-Ortiz, J. (2003, February). Using a portfolio to document advising effectiveness. Academic Advising Today, 26(1). [insert url here]


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Academic Advising Today, a NACADA member benefit, is published four times annually by NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. NACADA holds exclusive copyright for all Academic Advising Today articles and features. For complete copyright and fair use information, including terms for reproducing material and permissions requests, see Publication Guidelines.