ENG 101 ASSESSMENT
Prior to Fall 2001, the Department of English Language and Literature at SIUE used the "Common Final" (a brief in-class essay exam, addressing a common reading, that was assessed by two or three other instructors in the Department of English) as a way to assess individual students' writing ability. This Common Final did not help the Writing Program see strengths and weaknesses in the program itself -- only in students, who were already being assessed by their instructors. For these reasons, the Writing Program discontinued the common final in academic year 2001-2002 and initiated the Pilot Project for English 101. Our current portfolio program, described below, is one result of the initial pilots.
(Although included after the portfolio program description, downloadable in MS Word format (for easy accessibility) is the Student Development Assessment form (composed by Heather G. S. Johnson) used in various forms during the portfolio readings.
Why Use the Portfolio?
For programmatic assessment purposes, the English Department uses portfolios in all English 101 courses for the following reasons:
- Consistency in student learning and achievement. We strive to ensure that students who pass English 101 can all demonstrate similar writing competencies. This consistency is achieved on a number of levels. Teachers meet to discuss portfolios from across 101 sections in part to ensure that what happens in each 101 course meets the general expectations of the department and others who teach English 101 at SIUE.
- Validity in assessment of student writing practices. The portfolio also ensures that as many viewpoints on student writing as possible are reasonably considered in the assessment of the course, and that these views help the department to determine if ENG 101 helps a student’s writing to the point that it will allow him/her to succeed and the portfolios reveal what help he/she may need now or later. The portfolio as assessed by individual instructors helps students know that the kind and quality of writing they do in English 101 shows clear competency and ability to do other kinds of writing required later in academic and civic life.
- Fairness and adequacy in assessment and grading practices. We also understand that each particular teacher knows his/her student’s work and efforts throughout the semester and has deep insights into that student’s writing. Each teacher, however, can always use help comparing and adequately judging writing competencies and abilities against competencies practiced outside of a specific 101 section. Small groups of instructors read a random sampling of students’ writing portfolios to maintain programmatic coherence and help to determine the program’s degree of success.
What is the English 101 Portfolio?
During each semester of English 101, each student must submit a final writing portfolio (a midterm portfolio, for use in individual sections is highly encouraged), which contains (usually self-selected) samples of work completed during the semester in the composition course. A small group of readers (other English 101 teachers) will read a sampling of these portfolios: at midterm, usually during week seven or eight, instructors meet to discuss how their classes are -- or perhaps are not -- meeting the goals of 101, to identity patterns of problems in student writing. At the end of the semester, they examine "borderline" portfolios for which additional viewpoints will help in their assessments and final portfolios (again, for programmatic assessment purposes).
What Makes up the Portfolio?
Each English 101 portfolio is a collection of the best work the student has produced in the class, and it should clearly demonstrate to readers to what extent the student has met the course goals and is ready to move on to English 102.
The exact contents of each final portfolio is determined by the student (consulting, likely, with her/his teacher) but should include the following:
- A letter of reflection (approximately 1-2 double-spaced, typed pages) that introduces the portfolio and its contents, explains the portfolio's arrangement and the writer's decisions in revisions, and discusses any important writing issues or other elements a reader should consider when evaluating the portfolio. As Ramage, Bean, and Johnson state, "The role of a reflective letter…is to offer the author’s perspective on the writing in the portfolio, to give a behind-the-scenes account of the thinking and writing that went into the work, and to assess the writer's struggles and achievements during the term" (730).
- 10-15 pages of revised, polished expository writing that demonstrates writing competencies and abilities along the dimensions identified in the six English 101 course goals. Each essay must include an assignment sheet or accompanying explanation stapled or paper clipped to the front of the paper. (The midterm portfolio, if the instructor chooses to assign one, would likely be approximately 5-7 pages, half the length of the final portfolio.)
In some cases, clearly labeled early drafts may also be included, but special care should be taken when including these kinds of documents. They will not be read as carefully as the polished drafts and should have a specific purpose for their inclusion in the portfolio and the writer should explain and refer in the letter of reflection to any additional materials included. Any additional documents included (i.e. earlier drafts, handouts, etc.) DO NOT count toward the portfolio’s 10-15 polished pages.
How are the Portfolios Presented?
The portfolios should be presented in a manner that allows external readers to read them easily, efficiently, and productively. The more care and attention students take in preparing a good portfolio, the better the chance that portfolios accurately and effectively demonstrate writing accomplishments and competencies. (This is the main reason that a midterm portfolio is highly encouraged -- to "prime" students for the assembly of the final portfolio. It is good practice.)
What Should Each Portfolio Look Like?
All portfolios should be submitted to individual section instructors (by students) in the following manner:
- All materials should be submitted in either a flat, plain pocket folder or file folder with the student’s name and section number clearly on the front (please, no binder notebooks).
- Documents should be typed, double-spaced, and on 8 ½” X 11” paper, using a standard font (such as Times New Roman) with a size of between 10 and 12 points (generally, 12 pt for Times New Roman, or 11 pt for Arial).
- Documents need to be clearly identified and labeled in the portfolio.
- The letter of reflection should be addressed to external English 101 teachers.
- Explanations of assignments or, preferably, actual assignment sheets must be clearly labeled and attached to the front of each essay.
- If applicable, earlier drafts need to be clearly identified as such, paper clipping them behind the appropriate polished drafts that make up the 10-15 pages of the portfolio. (Note: any handouts and earlier drafts DO NOT count to the 10-15 polished, revised pages of the portfolio.)
If instructors choose to assign a midterm portfolio, it is recommended that it include approximately 5-7 pages of revised, polished documents, plus a letter of reflection.
(Note that students will not receive feedback from outside readers regarding portfolios, as the materials are used solely for programmatic assessment purposes.)
This checklist can help students and teachers to prepare the required portfolio:
- Reflective letter, typed and double-spaced
- 10-15 pages of polished writing, typed and double-spaced
- Assignment sheets stapled to the front of each essay
- Drafts of work, clearly labeled (optional)
- Student’s name and section number clearly on the front of the folder
- Submit in flat, plain pocket folder or file folder (no binders)
Ramage, John, John Bean, and June Johnson. The Allyn & Bacon Guide to Writing. 4th ed. New York: Pearson Longman, 2006.
Student Development Assessment Form
|1.||Yes ___||No ___||?__||Portfolio exhibits good problem solving and framing abilities.|
|2.||Yes ___||No ___||?__||Portfolio demonstrates developed critical thinking skills.|
|3.||Yes ___||No ___||?__||Portfolio communicates clearly and effectively with readers.|
|4.||Yes ___||No ___||?__||Portfolio displays critical self-awareness/meta-awareness of self as writer.|
|5.||Yes ___||No ___||?__||Portfolio shows an adequate knowledge and application of the conventions of academic writing.|
|6.||Yes ___||No ___||?__||Portfolio meets the basic requirements of the Portfolio assignment (Reflection letter included, page requirements fulfilled, includes assignment sheets).|
|7.||Yes ___||No ___||?__||Essays provide introductions and conclusions which perform their functions adequately.|
|8.||Yes ___||No ___||?__||Essays include original and effective thesis statements (where called for by the assignment sheet).|
|9.||Yes ___||No ___||?__||Essays present coherent, logical arguments that support their theses with evidence.|
|10.||Yes ___||No ___||?__||Essays are clearly and effectively organized.|
|11.||Yes ___||No ___||?__||Essays display adequate paragraphing skills.|
|12.||Yes ___||No ___||?__||Essays demonstrate a minimum level of stylistic sophistication (language, content, persona, usage, syntax).|
|13.||Yes ___||No ___||?__||Essays are free from excessive editing errors (any errors do not seriously impede reader understanding).|
|14.||Yes ___||No ___||?__||Essays follows directions as outlined in extant assignment sheets and syllabi.|
|15.||Yes ___||No ___||?__||Assignment design allows the student to display the qualities/skills listed above.|
|16.||Yes ___||No ___||?__||The Portfolio is of passing quality.
|1.||Yes ___||No ___||?__||The assignments (as a group) encourage critical thinking/problem solving.|
|2.||Yes ___||No ___||?__||The assignments (as a group) approach writing-as-thinking (writing as a process of discovery).|
|3.||Yes ___||No ___||?__||The assignments (as a group) require students to analyze different types of “texts.”|
|4.||Yes ___||No ___||?__||The assignments (as a group) encourage critical self-awareness.|
|5.||Yes ___||No ___||?__||The assignments (as a group) require knowledge and use of rhetorical strategies.|
|6.||Yes ___||No ___||?__||The assignments (as a group) encourage audience awareness.|
|7.||Yes ___||No ___||?__||The assignments (as a group) develop students’ understanding of academic writing conventions.|