Wednesday, 24 September 2014 09:38

Portfolio - Time Span of Discretion

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Time span of discretion

One significant finding from the span of time involved is the accumulated wisdom and access to ideas that is absent and from which even experienced practitioners have not benefited. In a recent conversation with a colleague about the process of developing portfolios with students, the colleague commented that, “Even I can't exactly remember what I did last semester so how can I expect my students to remember?” This perhaps is one of the best advertisements for the approach.

time span discretion

Similar to the concept of the time span of discretion (Jacques, 1979) discussed earlier, the longer the span of time over which a practitioner can capture and access their work through their own portfolio, the more beneficial will be that work and portfolio. As Ishmael (2007) notes, “It isn't until a network pf pathways is set up between pockets [of information] that the full potential of the additional structure is realized.” (p. 5).

Ill-structured Knowledge Domains

I have been asked why students or faculty should keep less-than-perfect documentation. In other words, how can the portfolio be a tool? To support the argument of putting forth less than fully-formed ideas, we may consider the concept of ill-structured domains as described by Spiro, Feltovich, Jacobson, & Coulson (1992). They describe an ill-structured domain as an application of knowledge that requires the “simultaneous interactive involvement of multiple wide-application conceptual structures” and that each interaction “varies substantially across cases nominally of the same type” (p. 60). When considering the range of possibilities to which a portfolio may serve, this is a very salient point.

Spiro and DeSchryver (2009) cite teaching as a prime example of a profession that characterized ill-structured domains. When considering teaching practices and classroom management techniques, they are as varied and individual as the students they are designed to manage. In these cases, the portfolio approach has enabled students to put their own reflections and journal entries out into the community in order to help determine the best course of action in a given circumstance.


Ismael, J. (2007). The situated self. New York: Oxford University Press.

Jacques, E. (1979). Taking time seriously in evaluating jobs. Harvard Busines Review, 124-132.

Spiro, R., & DeSchryver, M. (2009). Constructivism: When It's the Wrong Idea and When It's the Only Idea. In S. &. Tobias (Ed.), Constructivist Instruction: Success or Failure? (p. 389). New York: Routledge

Spiro, R., Feltovich, P., Jacobson, M., & Coulson, R. (1992). Cognitive Flexibility, Constructivism, and Hypertext: Random Access INstruction for Advanced KNowledge Acquisition in Ill-structured Domains. In T. M. Duffy (Ed.), Constructivism and the technology of instruction: A conversation. (pp. 57-75). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Retrieved September 6, 2014, from


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Dr. Paul Leslie

Associate of Taos Institute:

Education is a Community Affair. 

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