Why A-Portfolios?

What are portfolios and e-Portfolios?

- e-Portfolios are online collections of work that represents your learning experiences and your educational and career goals.

- In your writing courses, you will be asked to collect your best work and reflect on your learning experiences and writing as a process. The format may vary depending on the teacher and the course.

- e-Portfolios can be multimedia including essays, videos, Powerpoints, Prezis, drawings, maps, notes, PDFs, audio recordings, etc.

What are the advantages of a writing e-Portfolio?

- e-Portfolios are your property, which you can take with you after college.

- Both individual and collaborative projects are possible.

- You can showcase your best work for different audiences.

- You can also record teacher and peer feedback.

- Writing can be revised and polished throughout your college career.

- They can be adapted to meet the needs and requirements of different audiences and different purposes in both academic and professional settings:

          + Digital resumes can be repurposed for different audiences.

          + Different course materials can be archived in one place.

          + Applications to grad school, internships, and other professional positions can be saved in one location.

          + Portfolios allow you to practice and strengthen your writing, give you ownership of your work and authority over your content, and allow for reflection on course work and your progress.

- They allow you to make connections between various disciplines.

- They allow you to document your work and keep a record of your skills and achievements.

- Studies have shown that you learn more when you have an opportunity to become authoritative about your writing.

What writing courses require an e-Portfolio?

Composition (RC 0900, 1000, and 2001) courses will require you to submit an e-Portfolio at the end of the semester. As you progress through the Vertical Writing Model (see WAC video for an explanation of the Vertical Writing Model), your Writing in the Disciplines (WID) course and the Capstone course may increasingly use e-Portfolio as a means of reflecting on your learning while assessing your proficiency as a writer.

e-Portfolios in composition will typically include the following: 

- A reflective essay or letter

- Samples of your best writing in the class chosen by you and your professor

- Writing that exhibits your writing process

- Explores and demonstrates what you have learned

- Demonstrates mastery of learning goals and outcomes for the courses

- Demonstrates mastery of conventions of standard written English

What is process writing?

Process writing is an approach to writing that teaches invention, drafting, revising, and editing as steps in producing a text. These steps don’t always occur in order, and you may often repeat steps in creating final drafts.  Process writing allows you to be an authority on the subject you choose and to think about invention through a variety of methods, including free-writing, brainstorming, talking, researching, cubing, and mapping.  In writing and revising a draft, you may get feedback from other writers and provide ideas for those whose drafts you read. During revision, you may decide to expand or cut portions of the draft, or you may reconsider the assignment, its purpose and/ or its audience.  Editing and proofreading, the last steps in preparing a draft for evaluation, ask you to examine the grammar and punctuation of the draft to make the draft as clear as possible for readers. After editing, your writing is ready for publication; you may submit it to a teacher for evaluation, share it with a wider audience within Appalachian State University, or share it publicly with the world.

What is the importance of reflective writing?

With reflective writing, you gain metacognition about your own writing, a key element in effective learning, by assessing your writing during the revision process, explaining your choices, and evaluating your writing processes. This type of writing is heavily emphasized in the General Education Program and WAC curriculums at Appalachian.

Reflection refers to the process you engage in when you look back at an activity or decision, consider what you've learned from it, and decide how you might improve on this decision in the future. It is common among professionals and organizations to establish values, goals, and future actions, and it requires honesty, self-awareness, and the ability to think critically.

Some reflective questions to consider:

- What did I do? What is significant about it?

- What was important about what I did? Did I meet my goals?

- What have I learned about myself as a learner?

- What learning tasks did I respond to most easily?

- What learning tasks were most difficult?

- What was the most significant thing that happened to me as a learner?

- What learning activity was most surprising?

- What would I do differently if I could do it again?

- What are my plans for future learning?    

- How well did I do? What worked? What do I need to improve?

- When have I done this kind of work before? Where could I use this again?

- What do I do well when I write?  What do I struggle with?

- What process do I go through to write a paper, from idea to final draft?

- Who/ what was helpful about the feedback?

    • What could have been better about it?

    • What class activity or project helped me learn the most? Why?

    • Which activity was the least helpful?  Why?

    • Has the portfolio helped me improve as a writer?  Why or why not?

    • What lesson(s) from this class am I likely to use in the future?

    • What did I learn about myself as a writer in this class?

(The questions above have been compiled from John Zubizarreta, Kathleen Yancey, and other sources.) 

Why teach writing through portfolios and ePortfolios?

For several years, Composition programs have endorsed portfolio and ePortfolio assessment.  Major proponents of portfolio assessment, including Peter Elbow, Pat Belanoff, Nedra Reynolds, and Kathleen Blake Yancey, have convinced us that students learn more when they have an opportunity to become authoritative and reflective about their writing.  As a result of this work and campus visits by these scholars to Appalachian’s WAC Program, the Composition Program moved to portfolio assessment several years ago (other Appalachian programs, among them Geography and Planning, Professional Writing, and Teacher Education, have also used portfolio assessment).

When WAC instituted the Vertical Writing Model in 2009, an ePortfolio project was part of the plan to allow for longitudinal writing assessment and program assessment.  ePortfolios will allow the university to keep materials for study and assessment as well as allow students to have multiple ePortfolios and to own them for further education and careers.   The WAC Program will provide faculty development and support for writing ePortfolios in the courses of the vertical writing curriculum.

What's the difference between portfolios and ePortfolios, and why are we moving toward the latter?

An e-Portfolio is a portfolio that is collected, maintained, and stored online. The Composition Program has used portfolios as a way of allowing students to develop authority and practice revision, collecting them in print folders or on AsUlearn. Students will retain ownership of the materials but the university will be able to access the materials for assessment.  In addition, students will be able to include digital entries in multimodal texts, including films, maps, and file-sharing.

What are the learning benefits for students in portfolios and ePortfolios?

Writing practice and authority

Portfolios and ePortfolios are learning tools that allow students to reflect and revise drafts, so that the final drafts submitted in the portfolio are more likely to be a reflection of the semester’s work and learning.  We know that students are better writers when they have time to develop and revise drafts and to become authoritative about their subjects.  For a portfolio, a student might write a paper in the first few weeks of class, revisit it at midterm to revise with more experience in both the revision process and more authority about the subject, and offer a final refined and edited draft for grading in the portfolio.  Having this time to develop responses to early assignments allows students to earn the grade they deserve on writing at the end of the semester, benefitting from a semester’s growth in skills and knowledge.  Most instructors also keep records of student progress on process, on meeting deadlines, turning in drafts, etc., as a separate component of the final grade, and in some courses that component or another grading category might include quizzes and tests.

Reflective writing

A key element of portfolios and e-portfolios is reflection: students learn to assess their writing during the revision process, and in explaining their choices and evaluating their writing processes, they gain metacognition about their own writing, a key element in effective learning.  As Kathleen Blake Yancey points out, “Reflection is a critical component of learning and of writing specifically; articulating what we have learned for ourselves is a key process in that learning—in both school learning and out-of-school learning” (Reflection in the Writing Classroom 7).

Integrative learning

The purpose of the Vertical Writing Model is to connect the levels of writing instruction and to emphasize the necessity of transfer of knowledge and skills across the curriculum for both students and faculty.  Brett Eynon of LaGuardia Community College, where e-portfolios are central to learning, writes that “LaGuardia’s experience demonstrates that e-portfolios, implemented with institutional and pedagogical strategies that value integrative learning, help high-risk students engage more deeply in the learning process, leading to immeasurable improvement in student learning” (http://e-portfolio.lagcc.cuny.edu).

Resource for diverse audiences and purposes

As a learning tool, ePortfolios allow students to create different versions for different courses, for personal use, and for career and further education.  Creating  different e-Portfolios helps students develop rhetorical diversity as they write for different audiences and purposes.  Students can develop digital identities that can be useful in applications for graduate programs, internships, and employment.

Contact Us

For information about the Writing Across the Curriculum Program please contact Director Georgia Rhoades at (828) 262-2075 or e-mail at rhoadesgd@appstate.edu

Writing Across the Curriculum Program
Appalachian State University
253 Anne Belk Hall
ASU Box 32033
Boone, NC 28608-2033

(828) 262-2075 (office)
(828) 262-2032 (fax)

For more information about WAC

Vertical Writing Model

RC 2001 Resources

WAC Film

Community College Support

Web Resources

QEP Global Learning