Reading Notes

Nedra Reynolds and Rich Rice’s “Portfolio Teaching”

Reynolds, Nedra, and Rich Rice. Portfolio Teaching: A Guide for Instructors. 2nd ed., Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2006. 

Summary: Reynolds and Rice provide a succinct, practical guide for instructors who are using, or considering trying, portfolios as a form of writing assessment. Grounded in assessment scholarship over the past few decades, these scholars showcase questions and recommendations for compositionists to consider when planning to use portfolios in their writing classes and for their own professional development.

Keywords: portfolio, choice, variety, reflection, artifacts, reflection, assessment

Quotations, by chapter:

  1. Chapter 1: Planning Your Portfolio Course
    • “As many writing teachers know, portfolios are considered a ‘best practice’ for writing pedagogy and assessment” (1).
    • “[W]riting portfolios are ‘collections of work selected from a larger archive of work’ and are ‘unified as a construct’ (Yancey 2001, 16)” (1).
    • “Learning portfolios [process portfolios] invite students to collect or create artifacts… that best represent their experience and engagement with the learning process in a particular subject area” (2).
    • “[Best-works portfolios] share a similar goal: to show someone else what the portfolio keeper has learned, or to convince an audience of the portfolio keeper’s achievements, abilities, or talents” (3).
    • “[Y]ou want students to dedicate a considerable amount of time to their portfolios, which means the grade on a portfolio show be weighted more than the grade on an individual paper” (3).
    • “…three principles define [a portfolio]: choice, variety, and reflection. These three principles work in tandem” (7).
    • “But planning is especially critical to a portfolio course: The portfolio method can work only if it is planned for in advance and introduced on the first day of class” (9).
    • “A portfolio writing course puts students into a rhetorical situation that asks them to analyze their working folders and make sound choices as they also work within the guidelines you have set” (10).
    • “…three suggestions, in particular, can influence the success of your portfolio course; Assign plenty of writing; practice multiple kinds of assessment but don’t feel that you have to grade everything; and make reflection routine” (12).
  2. Chapter 2: Collecting Artifacts
    • “Your teaching portfolio [should] illustrate your choices, the variety of materials you have found helpful or valuable, and evidence of your reflection on your teaching practices” (15).
  3. Chapter 3: Selecting Artifacts
    • “Lessons about rhetoric matter in every instance where a portfolio keeper has to put a considerable amount of material into context and make sense of it for readers” (20).
    • “The habit of portfolio keeping is rhetorical because portfolios demand a certain amount of vigilance and responsibility. Portfolio learners must learn to pay attention; they must treat their portfolio as a learning process that demands reflection on their own choices and habits” (22).
    • “A portfolio, if treated as a whole discourse, needs an introduction, for example, to prepare readers for the subject at hand. Even an introduction that is explicitly reflective in nature is essential to most portfolios, and an argument can be made that a conclusion as well” (23).
    • “The whole portfolio, in fact, is a persuasive document. IN a classroom situation, the purpose of a best-works portfolio is to persuade its readers or evaluators that the portfolio is to persuade its readers or evaluators that the portfolio keeper has exercised good judgement, displayed sound thinking, anticipated readers’ needs and questions, learned the subject matter of the course, revised judiciously, and edited carefully” (24).
  4. Chapter 4: Reflecting
    • Instituting routine or ongoing assignments that get students to practice reflective learning helps students establish a reflective-learning habit that can influence their learning for years to come” (30).
  5. Chapter 5: Assessing the Portfolio
    • “…the most important job for the instructor is to respond to their writing with feedback and guidance that anticipate the portfolio” (43).
    • “Portfolios needn’t be a burden at the end of the semester. Because you have already done the difficult and time-consuming work of guiding students through revisions, responding at the very end of the course is optional” (48).
    • “What we do know from research on evaluating portfolios is that the cover letter, reflective introduction, or first few pages of a portfolio make the most significant impression on evaluators (Black et al. 1994; Conway 1994; and Hamp-Lyons and Condon 1993). The reflective introduction probably matters so much because it gives readers insight into the portfolio keeper’s choices, changes, and goals. In fact, what students say about their own work often gives evaluators what they need to know to determine a fair grade (White 2005)” (52).

Further Reading:

  1. Yancey, Kathleen Blake, ed. Portfolios in the Writing Classroom: An Introduction. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 1992.
  2. Yancey, Kathleen Blake, and Irwin Weiser, eds. Situated Portfolios: Four Perspectives. Logan: UT: Utah State UP, 1997.
  3. Indiana Teachers of Writing. “Special Issue on Portfolios.” Journal of Teaching Writing. 12, no. 1 (1992).
  4. Cambridge, Barbara, ed. Electronic Portfolios: Emerging Practices in Student, Faculty, and Institutional Learning. Washington, DC: American Association of Higher Education, 2001.
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