Portfolio Program

You may decide that the portfolio is your best option for gaining experiential learning credit. Portfolio assessment is an experiential learning option offered at many public and private universities across the United States. At the University of Tennessee at Martin, portfolio credit may only be applied toward the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies degree.

What Is Experiential Learning?

As an adult returning to college, you have many life and work experiences from which you have learned. Is the learning college-level? Can it be applied to your degree program? Assume, for example, you manage your own business, a medical supply company; therefore, you have experience in human resources, planning, scheduling, marketing, and customer service. You can explain not only what you have done on the job for the past ten years, but also the reasons for your actions and your knowledge and skills in these areas. You have reacted to situations, reflected upon these actions, analyzed their effects, generalized to other situations, and applied your learning in new situations. When you review your college catalog, you find courses describing some of the learning objectives you have met through your work experience. Your portfolio can help you obtain college credit for your life/work experience. 
In gaining academic credit through your experiences outside the college classroom, you must be able to identify and document your experiences and learning. Since you do not earn academic credit for experience alone, you must meet the challenges of analyzing the learning and finding parallels with UT Martin’s curriculum.

Getting Credit for College-Level Learning at UT Martin 

A UT Martin student can earn up to 12 semester hours at the undergraduate level through the experiential learning options listed below. Experiential learning credit hours can be applied toward free electives, area of interest courses, and courses for lower and upper division requirements for the area of interest.  To receive credit, appropriate documentation must be provided in all cases.  

What Is A Portfolio? 

A portfolio is an organized collection of essays and documentation demonstrating your learning through work and life experiences. Through the portfolio, you show that the knowledge you have gained through experience is equivalent to university learning.   
Each portfolio you submit will include the following major sections/documents: 

  • An expanded resume
  • An educational and career goals statement;
  • A learning narrative; and,
  • Documentation, (including letters of verification), that provides evidence of your experience and learning.

You may submit portfolios for several subject areas. At UT Martin, each subject area is assessed by a set of evaluators. While some components of each portfolio you submit (e.g., the resume and goals statements) will be the same, the Learning Narrative and Documentation will be specific to that portfolio.

How Do You Get Started? 

You must be enrolled as a student in the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies degree program at UT Martin. You will need to prepare and submit an autobiography to the Coordinator of Interdisciplinary Studies, to be used as a diagnostic tool. The Coordinator of Interdisciplinary Studies will determine if you have the writing skills to successfully complete a portfolio program. If you are approved, you will need to register for GENS 301 titled Portfolio Development. The Portfolio Development course will teach the student the necessary steps to develop a portfolio. The course is a 3-credit-hour class. Completing the portfolio development course does NOT guarantee credit for prior learning.

One of the most difficult steps of portfolio development is organizing your learning into course equivalents. The portfolio development course helps you to analyze the learning outcomes of your experiences and to find equivalencies with established college courses and/or general elective credit. At the end of the course, you should have the framework for your portfolio, some completed components and a time line for submission of your portfolio. You have 6 weeks from the time you complete the portfolio development course to submit your completed portfolio.

You will be assigned to a portfolio advisor who has access to experts in the same subject areas that you are requesting credit. You will continue to work on the portfolio with the support of the Office of Interdisciplinary Studies and the portfolio advisor.

Steps of Portfolio Development 
  1. Discuss the portfolio development process with the Coordinator of Interdisciplinary Studies.
  2. Develop and submit an autobiography.
  3. Register for and pass the Portfolio Development course (Pass/Fail Basis). At the end of the course, you should have the framework for your portfolio, some completed components, and a time line for submission of your portfolio.
  4. Meet (email/phone/fax) with portfolio advisor and/or Coordinator of Interdisciplinary Studies as needed.
  5. Submit each completed portfolio with the assessment fee of $300, to the Coordinator of Interdisciplinary Studies.
  6. The Coordinator of Interdisciplinary Studies sends the completed portfolio to the appropriate evaluators for assessment.
  7. The evaluators submit their recommendation for credit to the Interdisciplinary Studies Council.
  8. The Interdisciplinary Studies Council will review and award credit, up to 12 hours.
  9. The Coordinator of Interdisciplinary Studies will forward the credit award decision to the student and the Office of the Registrar.
Portfolio Submission

Two copies of each portfolio, with the appropriate fee, should be submitted to the Coordinator of Interdisciplinary Studies. The Coordinator will then forward each portfolio to the appropriate set of portfolio evaluators for review. A portfolio evaluator from the particular discipline where credit is requested will have input in the evaluation of his/her respective area. The time for assessment of each section is approximately three weeks. A copy of the student’s completed portfolio is kept in the Office of Interdisciplinary Studies for a minimum of one year and may be used as a reference guide for other portfolio participants.

Portfolio Evaluation and Evaluation Criteria

When an evaluator assesses a portfolio, he or she wants to see:

  • Current skills and knowledge.
  • Knowledge applicable in other circumstances outside the specific job or context in which it was learned.
  • Learning that includes major principles applied in a given field.
  • Familiarity with trends and what experts in the field have said.
  • Knowledge that can be measured and evaluated.

Poor writing will result in a negative assessment of your portfolio. You must demonstrate college-level writing skills for college-level credit. Proofread, revise and edit. Critique for organization, clarity, completeness, and technical accuracy.

Each portfolio evaluator has the option of recommending to the Interdisciplinary Studies Council any of the following:  

  • Granting your academic request
  • Granting academic credit in some requested subject areas, but not all
  • Requesting additional documentation
  • Denying credit  

On the Portfolio Evaluation Form, the portfolio evaluators indicate the strengths of your portfolio, additional documentation you must submit, or reasons for denial of academic credit. Academic credit may be denied for the following reasons:

  • Knowledge is not college-level.
  • Inadequate evidence of learning.
  • Brevity of narrative or poorly written narrative.
  • Sources of knowledge unclear.
  • Lack of breadth of knowledge.
  • Inappropriate match of knowledge with subject area.
  • Authenticity of evidence not documented.

The recommendation form will be forwarded to the Coordinator. The Coordinator will distribute to the Interdisciplinary Studies Council members at their next meeting.  

A) If there is a recommendation for approval of credit, this will become official upon the 
approval of the Council. 
B) If revisions are recommended, rather than credit, the student will make revisions to 
the portfolio and resubmit it to the Coordinator.  

Credit may be assigned in the following ways.  If there is an existing UT Martin course for which credit is received and the student has reached all of the learning objectives for that course, that course number will be used.  If there is no existing course at UT Martin or the student has not reached all of the learning objectives for a course at UT Martin, credit will be assigned as lower division (LD) or upper division (UD).

Portfolio Re-Submission

The portfolio evaluators will indicate on the evaluation form reasons for denial or additional materials needed for re-submission. If the evaluators indicate that additional materials are needed,  you must make a written request for re-submission within two weeks of receiving the evaluation. You will have three weeks to resubmit your portfolio.  You have the opportunity to resubmit the portfolio one time. The portfolio evaluators will complete an evaluation of the resubmitted portfolio within three weeks.

Portfolio Evaluation Appeals Process

To appeal a denial of credit, you must put your appeal in writing, stating specific reasons for the appeal, and send it within two weeks of notification of denial of credit to the Coordinator of Interdisciplinary Studies. There can be one appeal. The Coordinator will forward the appeal to the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. In consultation with the Interdisciplinary Studies Council, the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs can support the original credit decision or recommend that the Interdisciplinary Studies Council reevaluate the portfolio award. 


The Coordinator of Interdisciplinary Studies will forward a copy of the evaluation with a request for transcription to the Office of the Registrar. 
The following are examples of how portfolio credit will appear on the student s transcript:

Course: PSYC 343 ___ Title: Personnel Psychology ___ Hours: 3 ____ Grade: P

Course: PSYC UD ___ Title: Portfolio inPsychology ___ Hours: 4 ____ Grade: P

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I get credit for experience alone?

Academic credit results from the learning demonstrated at the college level. The knowledge you
have gained may be a result of your work and life experiences.

How much time do I have to submit my finished portfolio?

You will have 6 weeks from the date of completion of the portfolio development course.

What will it cost?

Once accepted, the student pays for the cost of the three credit hour portfolio development course. An evaluation fee of $300 per subject area is paid when you submit your finished portfolio.

How are my portfolio evaluators chosen?

Your portfolio evaluators are chosen in cooperation with the Coordinator of Interdisciplinary Studies. One Evaluator will be an expert in the subject area for which you are requesting credit and two evaluators will be chosen to assess the organization and quality of the portfolio.

Will I get the academic credit in the subject areas that I have requested?

There are no guarantees. You must demonstrate knowledge fitting the subject area for which you are requesting credit. 

If I don’t agree with my evaluation, what do I do?

You may have the option of resubmission. You can request one appeal.

What will appear on my transcript?

If you have been awarded credit for a particular course that corresponds to a UT Martin course, then the title of the course, the course number, and the number of credit hours are documented on your transcript. If you are awarded credit within a subject area only, then the subject name, and two-letter abbreviation for upper division (UD) or lower division (LD) will be documented on your transcript. You will receive a grade of “P” for any experiential credit hours earned.

Will other colleges accept experiential learning credit?

Although an increasing number of private colleges and public universities are accepting experiential learning credit, not all do. If you are planning to attend another college or university, check with their admissions office for transfer policies. The Coordinator of Data Analysis for the Office of the Academic Records and the Coordinator of Interdisciplinary Studies at UTM can provide an explanation of your credit to the particular college.