FAQ

Here you will find helpful information for teachers and students under "Why A-Portfolios" which explains why e-portfolios are helpful for the student in and after university. The section entitled "A-Portfolio Pedagogy" is a starting place for instructors who are concerned about the logistics of teaching an e-portfolio.

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 may 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.  

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. Appalachian State 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.

How does one grade the ePortfolio?

Most writing courses will weigh the ePortfolio as more than half of the course grade, with the remaining credit for low-stakes or process writing (such as class participation, journals, logs, and workshops), quizzes and tests, presentations, and draft credit.  Portfolio teaching allows the product, the e-Portfolio, to reflect the major portion of the grade, with the process or other low-stakes work focusing on credit for meeting deadlines and participation as well as quality.  The e-Portfolio grade reflects the quality of the work at the end of the semester, with a reflective letter about how the semester’s work has progressed.  The WAC program, drawing from national writing standards of CCCC and WPA Position Statements and AAC&U Values Rubrics, has created rubrics for local writing assessment; WAC also uses the rubrics designed by the General Education Program. (For more information about WAC assessment of writing at Appalachian, contact Sherry Alusow Hart, hartsa@appstate.edu).

How will portfolio/ePortfolio teaching affect my paper load and responding time?

Responding to drafts effectively and quickly

Most teachers learn to respond to drafts more quickly when using portfolio/e-Portfolio assessment, as drafts are given credit but are not graded.  Responding on cover sheets for drafts, learning to respond differently depending on the stage of the draft, and strategizing types of comments can help in speeding up effective responses to drafts. (Contact Georgia Rhoades (rhoadesgd@appstate.edu) for help in applying these strategies.)  Most faculty find that the final grading is much quicker, as they are familiar with the projects and the drafts from process work, and they also feel that the reflective letter of the final portfolio is a major help in deciding the portfolio grade.

Grades

Some teachers invite students to midterm conferences to offer an assessment of the work so far, which they find helpful for students concerned about grades.  Most find it wise to tell students that they will offer a general grade assessment at any time during the semester (and find that few students feel the need to ask for such an assessment).

How does one adapt to portfolio and ePortfolio teaching?

- Portfolio and e-Portfolio teaching models: Classroom portfolio and e-Portfolio models can vary, and we encourage faculty in writing courses to develop the model that best fits their assignments and content and addresses the course’s goals and outcomes. WAC will be happy to assist: contact Sarah Zurhellen (zurhellenss).

- Drafts:  Students should keep all drafts of assignments, and when the e-Portfolio is due at the end of the semester, they should turn in revised and edited drafts of assignments they have received feedback on earlier in the semester.  Some faculty require that earlier drafts also be turned in along with teacher comments, but most theorists agree that student choice is key to learning.

- Choice of artifacts:  Some teachers ask that students include certain assignments as well as allowing for choice from others. For example, a particularly complex report which is the focus of the semester’s writing might be required, but students could choose from other assignments. 

- Reflection:  Reflection on the semester’s writing is key to portfolio/e-Portfolio teaching.  As students learn to assess their own writing and make choices, they gain in authority about their own processes.  Faculty might ask students to reflect on every writing assignment as drafts are submitted, or they may focus on the final reflective letter due with the e-Portfolio.  For some faculty, the letter is the most significant piece of the portfolio.  

What are the learning outcomes and goals in writing e-Portfolios?

Principles of writing assessment which WAC has integrated in its rubrics and guidelines reflect the best practice of assessment of writing, including CCCC and WPA Position Statements and AAC&U guidelines.

What can be included in e-Portfolios?

e-Portfolio models for differ, and there can be several models to fit the needs of students and course material.  Most portfolios and e-Portfolios are composed of high-stakes rather than low-stakes assignments.  (Low-stakes assignments do not carry as much credit as high-stakes: for example, low-stakes writing might be a journal entry, while a research project draft would be high-stakes.)  Some faculty will require more artifacts than others, but the general theory behind portfolio teaching is that students choose the best of their writing and accompany it with a thorough reflective letter about their choices and writing process over the semester.  Generally, faculty require that a letter and half or two-thirds of the high-stakes assignments be included.

Among other options are these:

- All drafts of the chosen assignments might be included along with the final products that the student is submitting for the e-Portfolio grade.

- Along with the assignments a student chooses, one particular assignment might be required of all students, especially when the assignment includes tasks that are key to the course focus (for example, if one assignment is a culminating research project, the teacher might require that all students include it in the portfolio).

- Some faculty require or invite students to include material written in other classes or a sampling of low-stakes writing as well.

WID and capstone course e-Portfolios.

In a WID or capstone course, writing assignments might fall into low- and high-stakes categories.  (See above about low- and high-stakes assignments.) 

An overview of the writing for a WID course might include these options:

- Several assignments that are similar in nature

- A major writing assignment with some low-stakes writing as part of the process

- A combination of high-stakes writing and low-stakes writing

In the first case, students might include the best of the assignments and a reflective letter about the choices and what they represent in terms of meeting the goals and outcomes of the course.  In the second case, faculty are likely to require the major assignment, the reflective letter about the semester’s work, and a choice of low-stakes assignments that the writer feels are illuminative.  For example, if the student kept a journal of summaries and responses to texts used in the research and turned in an annotated bibliography, some of these pieces might be included and written about in the reflective letter.

What are the benefits of using portfolios/e-Portfolios for assessment?

e-Portfolios allow faculty, WAC, and the General Education Program

- to assess the Vertical Writing Model

- to conduct longitudinal studies of student writing

- to provide feedback on writing instruction to programs across the curriculum

- to plan faculty development opportunities for writing instruction

Please click here to access more information about e-Portfolio assessment. 

How does one teach and evaluate reflection?

- Reflection is a complex process that requires preparation and evaluation.

- Reflection can be elicited throughout the semester.  John Zubizarreta, in leading Appalachian faculty in a WAC workshop, suggested that reflection should be a semester-long project, running alongside the work of the course.  It might begin as simply as a question on which students write at the end of a lecture (“What resonated most with you from today’s lesson and what do you want to know more about?”), which the teacher might use to start a discussion at the next class.  Another strategy in many writing courses is the learning or cover letterwhich asks students to preface each draft with a reflective letter, a valuable resource in preparing the final portfolio/e-Portfolio letter.  Others ask students to write one or two questions they want responses to for each draft submission, and the teacher responds to these questions along with applying standard criteria to the draft.  Nedra Reynolds suggests that students write once a week in a reflective journal about how the course is progressing.  These strategies afford students an opportunity to become reflective about their writing and to be metacognitive about their writing process.

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

WAC Film

Community College Support

Web Resources

QEP Global Learning


Advanced