Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Portfolio Pilot at Midterm

After almost a week of conferences with my students, I can say that the portfolio system is working much better than they realize. They were very nervous last week when we began to work on the project, and now that they've been redrafting, meeting with tutors, each other and me, they have calmed down. I've modified the premise of portfolio-keeping so that they choose one paper that I've looked at and commented on (A visit to the school activities fair that results in a letter to a friend explaining why said friend, who is already considering our school, would enjoy our activities and should apply to our school.).
The other paper is based on any of the journals that they've done in and out of class. So, I can't really claim that the students have had much choice in putting together their work, which will include a one-page essay about how their writing ,or their perception of writing, has changed since September. But it is a good enough blend of giving them more freedom to choose than they're used to--more freedom to think for themselves.

While the students have been typing or visiting the Writing Center, I've been meeting one on one with all of them to discuss any of their three papers. I am so glad to have a structured time to sit down with each student. Most students don't come by my office during my office hours, and I think that meeting with me helps break the ice, so to speak.

My teaching goal over the past seven weeks has been to revise the course (Basic Writing)to incorporate portfolios, and to work with my students to develop comfortable writing processes and confidence in their reading and writing so that they aren't hanging on my elbow waiting to be told exactly what to write and when.

This last part--the confidence factor--determines how well they'll handle the rest. And speaking of rest, I'm going to go eat lunch before tutoring in the Writing Center, so chow for now.


At 6:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find the same thing with my students- they seldom come by during office hours. I have found that since I started supplimenting my courses with WebCT, they will email me and so contact that way has increased. However, I still find that conferences are the only way to really get to talk to my students individually. I also found that only half of them really had much they wanted to say. I am hoping the next round of conferences will work better-that they will feel more confident. (This round focused on all the writing they have done up to now including their first draft/prep work for their next essay.) That said- back to back conferences are SO draining.

At 7:08 AM, Blogger Rosa G. said...

yes, they are draining. I learned right quick not to hold classes and have conferences. The last two or three students really didn't have quality time with me--they had an exhausted, rapid speaking machine who was too tired to want to talk about anything. Now, during conference week, my students work on their portfolios in class while I meet with them one on one.

I'm thinking about creating an assignment that has them visiting other professors regarding office hours so that they can learn how hours work and to take advantage of them.

At 2:40 PM, Blogger clc said...

I'm conferencing this coming week to give back portfolios and discuss midterm grades. I've been trying not to think about how exhausting it's going to be. I know that by the end of each day I'm going to be on autopilot, but I don't know what to do about that. There is just no way to get everyone in and not schedule several hours in a row of meetings. And that's even with canceling regular class meetings, which I do.

At 9:51 PM, Blogger Rosa G. said...

CLC-- I hear you. I'm so drained from the experience and I have yet to figure midterm grades and post them. I don't cancel class but have them work on their portfolios while I conference. I'm still drained though and have made peace with the idea that on the days when I do conferences, I'm allowed to go home and collapse instead of spending three hours grading or prepping for the next day. The experience takes a kind of focussed energy that is akin to paper grading, and it takes time to replenish the store.


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