Course: ENGL 150 Composition I

Author: Harris, Rochelle
School: Central Michigan University
Department/Program: English
Sub Area/Speciality: Composition and rhetoric
Year: 2003

Portfolio Objective/Abstract:

In the Fall of 2002, the twenty-two students in English 150-057 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln produced a portfolio which documented their intellectual work, primarily taking the form of drafts, revisions, and responses accumulated in producing 18-20 polished pages of prose and reading three published texts: Tobias Wolff's This Boy's Life, Julia Alvarez's Something to Declare, and Natalie Goldberg's Wild Mind. The four questions I included on the syllabus and around which I have thematically organized the class, drawn from the departmental goals for English 150, the three texts, and my experience with the kinds of topics about which students often choose to write, are: (1) In what ways do community and family influence identity; (2) In what ways does a larger cultural context influence community, family and identity; (3) How is language, including writing, involved in our understanding of the communities and cultures around us; (4) In what ways can writing be a medium for thinking about community, family and identity. By creating this course portfolio, I am hoping to see in what ways these questions are taken up by students in the course, in what ways the questions are revised, and in what ways the setup of the course is adapted to the specific student population of this class. This adaptation, in particular, is a necessary aspect of a course that I wish to understand more fully, tracing how students articulated their own goals within the larger goals of the course. Secondly, I am interested in understanding in what ways this rhetorical emphasis I put on a first-year composition course is interpreted and enacted by students. What ways do they find to generate writing, revise ideas and texts, choose genres and/or make rhetorical decisions, like organization and style? What strategies might I better employ to help them? Thirdly, I am interested in whether students use their writing to do critical work as critical educators define it. One pedagogical goal is for students to find uses outside the classroom for the texts and/or to use their writing to critically re-interpret culture, society, politics, class, race, and gender. *** NOTE: this portfolio was developed while Professor Harris was at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Type of Portfolio: Benchmark
Evidence of Student Learning in the Portfolio: Examples of Student Work

Size of Class: 11 to 29
Type of Student: Major and Non-Majors
Level of Course: first-year
Type of Course: General Education

Teaching Environment:
  • Classroom
Student Activities:
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Classroom Discussion
  • In-Class Group Exercises
Assessment Approaches:
  • Papers
  • Portfolio Development
  • Group Project
  • Individual Presentations
  • Group Presentations

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Comments from other readers of this portfolio

Review Comments on the English 150 Course Portfolio First of all, I found the syllabus captivating in that there were provocative and reflective quotes and questions for the students to consider and clearly stated and relevant objectives. I believe such a syllabus would engage the students on both an intellectual and personal level while lending initial clarity to the purpose of the course. Regarding the studentsí writing, the objectives were two-fold: to compose good prose and to think critically and revise ideas. I particularly liked the idea of the student portfolio of writings and reflective letter of self-assessment. The studentsí portfolio seemed to me an ingenious mirror for their own work in progress and one for you to reflect on within your own portfolio. The corrections and comments contained in the sample writings furthermore helped to guide while encourage the students to rewrite and rethink their ideas. To avoid coverage-based instruction, you incorporated small peer groups and discussion facilitations. The students would consequently prepare more at home, take an active part in leading the class, and invest more of themselves in their learning. You did indeed try to combine course requirements and studentsí interests and goals by meeting with them individually to ascertain their objectives and allowing them to write about issues related to family, friends, organizations, and college. The grading guidelines were both fair and well articulated. Students would definitely understand how to earn a particular score according to the in-depth narrative for each grade. I wonder, though, if this isnít reinforcing their grade-oriented nature. Perhaps this narrative could be slightly modified to focus more on curiosity, excellence, and the joy of learning? I found the course portfolio extremely helpful as a model for my future portfolio for French 201, particularly given its strong speaking and writing components. I would offer a suggestion for the student portfolio Ė a short pre- and post-course writing sample on a similar topic to serve as a clear benchmark for student progress and motivation for further writing endeavors. Thank you for allowing me to benefit from your teaching experience and diligent preparation of your course portfolio. I wish you continued satisfaction and enrichment in the classroom! Sincerely, Cheryl Schaile
- Schaile, Cheryl