Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Your Outcomes Inventory and Your Portfolio.

Take a day or two each week to review the work you've done and fit it into your inventory of your learning of the WPA bulleted outcomes. As you do, update your responses including new information you gain from reading my posts on rhetoric, process, critical reading and writing, and conventions. Each week, you'll do an assignment designed to give you a better grasp of a specific area of the outcomes.

Your first week's essay was to get you thinking about where you are in terms of your career and your past experiences with writing and communication. Hopefully, it also gave you some insight into how communication and your career goals fit together. Reading other's essays should have given you some insight into how others are making their decisions about career, communication skills, and past and future plans. Commenting on and learning from comments on these essays should have given you some basic insight into how peer readers can help your own writing.

Your second week's essay, the one doing a rhetorical analysis of a game, had you researching the rhetorical appeals of logos, pathos, and ethos and applying them to a text--a game--with which you are familiar. This assignment is designed to get you thinking about using new critical thinking rubrics. Rubrics are ways of reading and making sense of texts. Just as every discipline has their own conventions of writing, they also have their own ways of reading. History, for instance, uses rubrics like chronology, cause and effect, and narrative to make sense of the past. When a new fact is found, historians work to place it in context of the existing (current) narrative of history. They place in a time line, so they understand where the new fact fits; and, they try to figure out if the new fact is cause, effect, or both. In a similar way, rhetoricians--those who study how to use language effectively--use a set of rubrics or interpretative frameworks. Ideas like looking at how a text makes appeals to its audience and dividing these appeals in terms of logos, pathos, and ethos constitute one of these rubrics. Another rubric used by rhetoricians is that of the rhetorical triangle, where we look at questions like: Who is the Author? What is his or her purpose in creating their text? Who was the text written for? What kinds of noise prevented or limited the author from achieving their purpose? What techniques did the author use?

As you revise the second week's paper using class discussion and new information to be found in these posts, you'll gain insight into many of the outcomes under the "Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing" section of the WPA outcomes. Think, for instance, of the interpretative frameworks or rubrics used in your own professions. What questions appear again and again as you attack a problem? What kinds of texts does your profession address? How do you address and make sense of these texts? What do you try to do with the texts you read in your profession? You should also be thinking about how using a rubric from another discipline gives you insight into texts with which you are already familiar. What, for instance, did looking at a familiar game in terms of logos, ethos, and pathos teach you about the game? Did you gain any insights into how and why the game is successful and why it appeals to its audience? Thinking in these terms will help you understand why some games sell well and have a huge impact and why others don't.

In addition to getting a handle on reading or interpretive rubrics, you should be thinking about how writing itself helps you gain insight into texts and improves your critical knowledge. If you've every made a pro vs con sheet to try to make a difficult decision, you've used writing to help you do critical thinking. In a similar way, the very process of writing, that is, making sense of something for an audience, causes you to make sense of a text for yourself.

The paper you're working on for this week describes a process you use in the creation of products in the profession for which you are training. You might also provide an overview of the process you've used in writing code, designing a game, setting up a security system for a network, etc. The idea here is to get you thinking about the processes with which you are already familiar, and, more importantly, how to articulate these processes to yourself and to others. This effort should give you some insight into the outcomes under the "Process" section of your outcomes inventory.

This class is about figuring out where you are as a writer and how you can build on your current skills to become a better writer. You need to come to understand the processes you currently use to create written and spoken texts, and how you can improve these processes.

Your inventory of yourself as a writer, that is, your short responses to the various bulleted points in the WPA outcomes is an important aspect of gaining an idea of where you are as a writer. Your understanding of yourself as a writer can't stop there. As you gain new knowledge of one or more of the outcomes, you should take time to update your responses. My best suggestion here is to set up a google doc using the bulleted points in the WPA outcomes as a template. Many of you already have. Add your classmates and me as collaborators on your inventory. As you do an assignment, write and revise an essay, read a post, read your peer's inventories, etc. update your response to the various bulleted points in your template. What you are creating here is a document constantly under revision, one which records your understanding of rhetoric, critical thinking, process, and knowledge of conventions. It is an ongoing inventory of your self as a writer. Take a few moments every time you do work for the class to run through your inventory and add new information as you learn new things.

This inventory will form the core or body of the cover letter in your portfolio. To turn the inventory into a cover letter, you'll frame the inventory with a brief introduction and a conclusion in which you'll argue for a specific grade in the class based on how much you have learned. The inventory will provide a record or index of what you have learned. Under each bulleted point, you should make a specific claim. For instance, "I understand how to use writing to gain a better critical knowledge of a subject." You'll then support your claim with proof. This proof might include an explaination of what you mean by using writing to gain knowledge. The proof should also contain examples of places where you've used writing to gain knowledge of a subject, and it might point to specific pieces of knowledge and the role writing played in learning them.

One of the critical lessons of the class is that the major difference between academic discourse and everyday discourse is academic discourse doesn't just make claims or offer an opinion, it backs the claims and opinions up with evidence, examples, etc.

In addition to the cover letter in which you reflect on what you have learned and argue for a grade, you'll include actual writing in your portfolio as evidence of what you have learned. These are examples of writing which demonstrate you've learned the skills and outcomes you claim to have learned. For instance, to back up the claim you've learned to use writing to acquire critical knowledge, you might point to the paper you wrote doing a rhetorical analysis of a game. Or, to back up the claim you've learned the value of revising your papers and taking them through multiple drafts, you might include an intermediary draft of a paper you wrote for this class. Remember, this evidence can come from not only the work you do for this class but also work you've done in your jobs, for other classes, or for yourself.

I hope this post makes the process of and reasoning behind the inventory and the portfolio a tad clearer. As always, write with questions, concerns, etc. As always, the prof.brandon@gmail.com address is the one I access most frequently.

No comments: