Background and Overview of Portfolios in English 12
English 12 is the first half of the required 2-semester Composition sequence at Kingsborough, and, as such, it occupies a prominent place in the educational experience of all Kingsborough students. For well over a decade, students had completed their experience in English 12 by taking a common, departmental writing exam. Several faculty members were dissatisfied with the timed exam and expressed a strong desire for a more communal, shared system of final assessment that would provide more substantial and useful feedback for students and teachers. In the Summer of 2009, a group of full-time faculty met voluntarily to craft a system of portfolio assessment that would better meet our needs as educators and our students’ needs as learners. Fourteen faculty met in the Summer of 2015 to reconsider and revise the original policies and practices with an eye to sparking more interest among other faculty who teach English 12 regularly. We created the current system of collaborative portfolio assessment with these goals in mind:
- to provide students and teachers with clear, shared criteria for passing English 12;
- to offer greater support to teachers in making final assessments of their students’ performance;
- to make judgments of passing and failing English 12 collaborative judgments based on the perspectives of more than one instructor;
- to incentivize students to take revision seriously as they prepare their final portfolios;
- to bring more collaboration and social interaction to the experience of teaching English 12; we believe this makes teaching a more pleasant and rewarding profession.
The collaborative portfolio system in English 12 has been in place since the Fall of 2009. Since Fall 2010, it has been mandatory for all new faculty teaching English 12–serving as a form of course-specific mentoring–and remains voluntary for all other faculty. It is independent from the Course Review Committee (CRC), but faculty are welcome to volunteer to serve on the CRC while also participating in collaborative portfolio assessment.
In creating our method for collaborative assessment, we have striven to keep things simple. We divide faculty into small teams of no more than 4 faculty members, and we ask that these teams meet twice during the course of the semester: at least one meeting before midterm to share your approach to teaching Eng 12 and your plans for the Capstone project, and another meeting at the end of the term to discuss your assessments of each others’ students’ portfolios.
Here’s a breakdown of how the final assessment process works:
- Team members schedule a meeting early in the semester to share syllabi, course calendars, and major assignments for Eng 12. Everyone should share their plans for the Capstone assignment, as well as any questions and concerns they have about the course. The goal of this sharing is to make each faculty’s approach to the course explicit and to provide an opportunity for faculty to support each other in the early weeks of the course. In addition, at this meeting faculty should review the Final Portfolio Assessment Criteria document and should discuss their thoughts and feelings about the criteria listed here.
- On or around the last day of class, partners exchange their students’ portfolios for assessment. It’s important that all members agree upon and commit to this date since it is vital that faculty have adequate time to read and respond to the portfolios. Many faculty use various types of eportfolios, and we encourage faculty to move in this direction.
- Group members read students’ portfolios, completing feedback forms for any that they think should fail English 12. Please note that instructors needn’t do anything for portfolios that are clearly passing.
- Teams meets to exchange assessed portfolios, to discuss the assessments that have been made, and to handle any appeals. If one member disagrees with the initial assessment of a student’s portfolio, one of the other teachers will act as a “second reader” and provide their honest assessment. If two instructors concur on an assessment, it should stand. Please note that appeals should be handled by the faculty in an assessment group and should not be submitted to the directors of the Composition program for review. Please note that failing the portfolio means failing the course.
- During Kingsborough’s finals week, instructors set up a two-hour window during which time they can return portfolios to students and hold conferences with students who failed this process. This can be in an office, in the cafeteria, or in any other on-campus space that will work well for this purpose.
Finally, please know that participants receive 6 hours of pay at your non-teaching rate. Those in the CRC receive a credit (1) for work on that committee and will not receive an additional 6 hours of pay for portfolios.
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