Friday, December 14, 2007

Portfolio, FAQ:

1. How do you want me to submit the portfolio?

Create one long document in which the major sections are separated by page breaks, and then add me as a collaborator to it. Since everyone now knows how to use Google Docs, use this program. As always, feel free to get collaborative help on the document. One of the things you're learning is to use others in your writing process.

Following this plan, you'll get to see your grade earlier, as I can leave it in the comments. Make sure you *want* everyone on your viewer/collaborative list to see your grade; so, edit your share list accordingly. If it's all right to leave your grade at the beginning of the document, leave me a note at the beginning of the document telling me it's all right to post your grade in the document. At the least, having one long document separated by page breaks will allow me to have every thing you want to say and use in one place, and I can search the document with some ease. This shared format meets the rule of making things as easy as possible for both reader and author to fulfill their goals/needs. Within the portfolio feel free to connect via links to other documents or work you want me to see and think about.

If this format doesn't work for you, we can negotiate other options; so, feel free to ask. I can think of web pages which would work here.

2. What's the overall format for the documents I include?

a. Cover Letter
b. Inventory
c. Evidence supporting the claims made in the cover letter and inventory

3. What should I put in the cover letter?

Your cover letter is the place where you make a claim as to the grade you have earned and convince me to believe your claim. You can use this space to address what you anticipate to be my concerns about your performance, tell me the lessons you've found most valuable from the class, make claims about the effort you've put into the class, show me in action what you have learned, explain why you didn't do an assignment or turned it in late, etc. In specific, I will be looking to see if you've picked up what the major lessons of the class are and if you're: 1) able to speak about them in the context of your learning; and, 2) if you put these lessons into practice in your letter. Frankly, I'm also hoping to learn how to make the class more effective for students like you in the future.

4. How will you grade the cover letter?

I will be looking at the quality of your claims and the quality of the support you put together to help me believe your various claims. In terms of claims, I will judge them by how they are made and on their plausibility. In terms of support, I will look for sufficient support and a good deal of evidence, epically examples and clarification. The evidence should be plausible, detailed and--in most cases--specific. I will look at your ability to speak knowledgeably about the work you include in the evidence section and about your own writing. I will look at your tone, voice, and style and judge its appropriateness to the writing situation. Since this is a letter written to an English professor about your learning in his class, I will look at issues of usage and grammar. Finally, I will look for evidence that you've used process writing to construct the document.

5. How will you grade the inventory?

Again, I will look for specific claims about what you know/learned about the outcomes and how you use the skills and knowledge they describe in your writing and/or other aspects of your communication. I'm looking to see if you've come to be able to speak knowledgeably about yourself as a writer and speaker. If you remember my post about metadiscourse, I'm looking for evidence to see if you've gained and/or started a useful metadiscourse about your writing and yourself as a writer. I'll look at how you use examples from the evidence section to support your claims.

6. What can I include in the evidence section?

Any writing or other work you've done as a communicator.

7. What should I include in the evidence section?

Since we both share the work you've done as an author in this class, this work should become the basis of your portfolio. You shouldn't try to include it all. When I say work, I mean pre-writing, notes, emails, comments on papers on which you've helped, proofreading exercises, posts, etc. All this is fair game.

You may also include or point to work you've done else where, in your daily life, for a job, or in school. This includes creative writing, games, photos, etc.

You can also include excerpts from longer pieces or let a single piece of evidence do multiple duty.

If you haven't done all the work for the class, support the arguments you make in the cover letter and the inventory with work from outside the class, and address the fact you didn't do all the work in the cover letter, explaining why. Since I'm training you to make a good argument and to use rhetoric, here's a high stakes place to implement your skills. I'm looking for evidence you've learned, not that you've toed the line; and, I don't really care when you learn, that is, as long as you do and can use the knowledge.

8. What should I not do in the evidence section?

Don't just do a core dump. Pick and choose your evidence. Part of what I'm looking at is your ability to pick evidence which supports your arguments well. Portfolios are meant to showcase your work in such a way that they support the purpose for which you put them together. In this case, you're trying to get a handle on your self as a writer, your work in this course, and what you've learned in the course. (Oh, and I assume you hope to garner a high grade for the course.) I'm trying to do the same and to use the material to make a fair judgment of the grade your work in the course had earned.

Don't hand me the kitchen sink. Think of your audience here. Just like students, professors are *very* busy folks at the end of term. We've got lots of reading and thinking about students and their work to do. We're meeting and working with worried students, and we're taking care of the business of the university knowing that folks will not be very available over the holidays to help. The upshot is we appreciate students who help us do the best job we can.

Don't make the mistake of not having some sort of organization for your evidence section. Don't go overboard here, but I need to be able to find the work you speak about in your cover letter and in your inventory. Assume your reader is tired, has been reading and grading for a day, has had too much caffeine, and needs to take a break. Imagine how pleased this reader is when he is able to find the information he needs to make an informed, fair decision with relative ease.

9. What are your expectations as an audience concerning the work I've done?

You need to remember: you are in a first semester, freshman level class. I don't expect you to do everything perfectly. I don't expect you to fully understand or to be able to implement and use every outcome. Heck, you know I believe in a crafts' approach to writing, one where you are always in the process of acquiring new skills as your needs and desires change. I do expect evidence of substantial work, that you've learned the basic linkage between opinion and support, that you know and have begun to use process writing, and that you have a budding knowledge of rhetoric. Most importantly, I expect you to have learned some useful techniques and a process through which you can make yourself a better writer.

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