Portfolio Prompt

Here is the prompt for the upcoming ePortfolio project: Final ePortfolio Prompt F19.pdf

In my experience, students tend to be pretty confused about what exactly this assignment is looking for. While I can sketch it in general terms (as I’m going to below), I often get the sense that I don’t really get to see where students’ ideas about the ePortfolio run into problems until the drafts actually come in. I thiiiink the way I’m going to do this is to have this assignment in two parts – one this week to get you thinking about the upcoming assignment beforehand and ask clarifying questions right now, and another part next week once you actually start making said ePortfolio.

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For this week’s assignment, and definitely after you read the prompt linked above as well as the description of what I’m looking for below, ask one to two questions that you’d like answered about the ePortfolio project. They can be simple technical questions or more complicated questions about what I’m looking for or mean by something, but I want to try to address your concerns a bit early on, since we have less face-to-face time to iron out difficulties with an assignment that, if I’m being honest, a lot of students tend to have trouble understanding.

A description of the project, the ePortfolio, which we’ll be working on for the last two weeks of class (note: you do not need to submit the ePortfolio itself in response to this assignment. This is preliminary work): first off, the ePortfolio works through Canvas’ ePortfolio system. My expectation is that it will have four properly labeled subsections, and each of which will contain one major document. Three of those documents you will already have completed: you will have a section for your completed CP paper, a section for your completed AP paper, and a section for your Week 1 Self-Assessment. You do not have to modify those papers from whatever versions you submitted for a final grade, you just have to upload a readable version to each properly labeled section. Readable in the case means, at bare minimum, that it’s a .doc/.docx/.pdf version. No google docs or other file formats will be allowed. You are also permitted, though making sure the formatting for those papers is correct would be a pain, to submit it as the webpage of your ePortfolio itself. Not a requirement, but you can. You are also permitted to spend extra time making your ePortfolio ‘pretty,’ though this isn’t something that in my opinion tends to affect how I grade your project particularly much. Still, I will explain its contribution in a bit.

The main part of the ePortfolio assignment, and the primary contributor to your grade, is the Reflective Introduction aspect of the ePortolio assignment. This essay, the most important section of your ePortfolio, I do want to be on the ePortfolio page itself rather than as a separate downloadable document, since its formatting isn’t so important this time but its readability definitely is. In that essay, you will essentially engage in another research project, except the subject matter of this research project is your own past work from this course. Essentially, you are looking through your past work and considering skills you’ve worked on (and maybe improved?), issues you’ve had, things you’ve learned, etc. This isn’t intended to be some sort of ‘inspirational’ story about how ‘I was such a bad writer and now I’m a brilliant writer thank you Prof. Carter please give me an A.’ Rather, it’s intended to be a reflection on your work, things you’ve learned, difficulties you’ve had, etc. But instead of just telling me a story, you’re demonstrating this story to me via evidence and analysis of that evidence. And that evidence is through citations from your previous writings!

Note that in citing for this project, I’m not requiring footnotes or a formal bibliography, because I already have access to the specific papers in question and it’s fairly easy to explain which assignment. If you’re quoting from draft 2 of your CP, for instance, you can just write something like, “This is from page 4 of my second CP draft, where I write that, ‘…..blah blah blah.'” That’s good enough for me. One thing I’m especially (but not only) looking to see is an analysis of changes between drafts. This can include a relevant comment from a peer or me if there is one. But essentially, one thing that looks good is to quote from two similar paragraphs or sections of two different drafts of an essay, and talk about a change or several changes you made to (hopefully) improve your work.

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The above, citing multiple versions of a draft to show changes, is for the “Revision” section of your AP paper. What I consider the most important part of the essay, even if just by a slight margin. But there are three other parts of the essay you also have to cover, and you definitely cannot skip any. For me, the second most important section is the ‘Process’ section. Essentially, this is where you cover coming from the idea stage up through the completion of your first draft of your paper. People often just want to tell a story here without citing anything, which I consider to be a mistake. Instead, successful papers often show me notes from their research process, or outlines, bullet pointed notes to themselves, mind maps, etc. You can tell me a bit of a story here too, especially if it’s likely novel and not something that just applies to everyone. And yes, if there’s something coronavirus specific or online-education-specific you want to address, here’s the place to do it. It’s possible that also affected the revision section, but I’m suspicious process it a better section for it.

The last two sections, and these I emphasize a little less but again definitely need to be there, are Multi-modality and Transfer. Multi-modality is essentially you reviewing how all those citations and inputting of images into your essays went. Students often view this section as a ‘slam dunk,’ where they can write how images helped them clarify ideas that were easier to demonstrate and explain in pictures/charts/graphs than in words, and how it helped something something their writing, and that’s cool. I’ve also seen it dozens of times. This should perhaps be one, maybe two paragraphs. I don’t want to see multiple pages, or even the bulk of your essay, about multi-modality. It’s just not necessary to do that much with it.

The last section is Transfer. It’s not the least important section for me, but it’s perhaps the part students have the most trouble with: this is where you try, for example, to figure out in what other contexts you’ve used/will use the skills you’ve worked on in this course, and demonstrate to me in some meaningful way that fact and why you think what you’ve learned in this class will stay with you. Probably the easiest way to do this, if you have such an example, is to take another essay/assignment from another class where you used skills from this class (researching, or example) to complete said assignment. If such an assignment doesn’t exist, you may need to think a bit harder about how these skills might be useful to you in the near or further future. For further help on this topic, consult the prompt’s relative extension of guiding questions on the Transfer section. Again, please make sure you’ve fully read the prompt before asking for clarification!

As far as grading the ePortfolio project is concerned, the bulk of your grade comes from your Reflective Introduction essay (the essay I was just talking about). I should note that, while I try to grade generously and fairly, you have to do your part of at least making a good faith effort on all sections for that to happen. If you skip a section, don’t actually cite anything from your previous papers, or just very shallowly consider anything you’ve done in the class and never think more deeply about the choices you’ve made in your writing or why you made them, then that will unavoidably be reflected in your grade. The rest of your ePortfolio doesn’t tend to contribute much to your paper unless it’s missing something major. If its sections are improperly labeled or I can’t access the necessary information, that may affect your grade. A beautiful, masterfully made ePortolio might improve your grade by a ‘+’ over your essay grade, but I tend to suggest that that effort could have been better spent just improving your essay.

A note on citations (by the way, you can take screenshots of your previous writing, especially if you want to preserve formatting or just the general ‘look’ of your past essays. I think it looks neat! But please limit those screenshots to just the relevant words/sentences/paragraphs. Whole-page screenshots are usually a waste except in very specific circumstances, and you essay should not include entire other multi-page assignments!) –

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It’s not enough to tell me, especially in the Revision section, that a change you made to your paper makes your paper ‘better.’ Better doesn’t tell me anything. Consider, rather, why you made the change. Why does your change make the paper better? For example, how does it alter your reader’s perception of your paper? How does it help support the structure of your argument? What makes one phrasing of an idea clearer than another? You can use ideas like having better grammar or formatting, but explain what the change meant and why you did it. This is the kind of explanation that makes a more shallow paper into a more thoughtful one, and thoughtful at the end of the day (with proper references and citations!) is what we’re looking for.

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