I attended a comprehensive portfolio defense last week, to get a feel for this part of the PhD process. It was the second of such events I have attended specifically to support my local university site and fellow PhD participants, but also to learn more about what to do in order to prepare and present a comprehensive portfolio for defense.

The process is clearly laid out in the Joint PhD handbook, but how each element is interpreted and presented is very different. Seeing and hearing as other PhD students work through this process to become a PhD candidate is helpful. The importance of carefully selecting the committee members becomes clearly evident when examining the work students/candidates complete for their comprehensive portfolio. I’ll need to revisit this, since my intention is to complete this process by next year at this time.

The purpose of the comprehensive portfolio is a demonstration of accumulated knowledge, skills and competencies in a specific field of study. Since my field of study is cognition and learning, the underpinning theories, writing, and foci should come from this field. The three components of the comprehensive portfolio document contains

a) overview and synthesis of academic growth through courses, readings, research, writing or scholarly activities – for this section, I can include conference attendance, virtual conversations with Virtually Connecting, and perhaps my work with Open Education Day

b) scholarly task that showcase academic growth – I should include published articles, book review (if published) or book chapters (one that is currently in process should be completed in time for my portfolio defense), as well as collaborations in networks such as GO_GN; I should also include current work I’m doing in a research project.

c) supporting documents – these could include the SSHRC grant applications, OGS applications, GO-GN applications, Open Ed grant application, etc.

Part of the comprehensive portfolio defense is the 20 minute presentation the PhD student makes to their committee. The one I attended last week was unique in that the slides in the powerpoint presentation consisted mainly of graphics and images rather than the usual bullet points on a page (as mentioned by one of the committee members). For my presentation, this will be the expectation rather than the rule (graphics and images, media productions rather than bullet points). Since my topic revolves around media and digital literacies, this will be a critical inclusion rather than the default text based presentation.

While I begin to tease out what needs to be included, and in what form it will be included, I’ll need to also critically examine who will be part of this process with me. I’ve got some ideas, but it’ll be important to work through this with my supervisor. This is the beginning of my preparations – still fuzzy around the edges and in the middle.

The full PhD handbook is helpful and upon review, this section on page 24 helps clarify the expectations.