ENGL 101: Teaching Suggestions for Self-Assessment
There are two key reasons for the reflective letter in the portfolio:
- First, it demonstrates to students that they have a measure of control over the assessment process. If the first item the rater sees is a statement from the student, introducing the rater to and guiding him/her through the collection, then the student can believe that writing is about communicating, that the process is designed to take account of the student's needs, that the process is therefore designed to be fair.
- Second, the reflective piece provides valuable information that helps raters make reliable judgments. This information ranges from procedural data about assignments, expectations, and so on, to substantive information about the student's abilities as a writer, her metacognitive awareness as a writer, etc.
-- Bill Condon, WSU, assessment of Highline's Portfolio Process, Spring 1999
***Be sure to let your students know that this letter is not the place for them to gush about what a wonderful teacher you have been nor is it the place for them to convince you that they deserve that "4.0." They should instead focus on analyzing and contextualizing the essays they've included in the portfolio for the portfolio reader(s).
Teaching suggestions to promote self-assessment
- On the day they turn in their final drafts, have your students write what they like about the draft and what they would change if given another day. They might write this on the back of the draft, on a cover sheet, or in their journal.
- After you turn back essays with your comments and a grade, have students write an assessment of what their strengths and weaknesses were. They might also write what they would change about the essay if they were to include it in the portfolio.
- Midterms are approaching: have your students write a mid-quarter self-assessment. What do they see as the strengths and weaknesses in their writing at this point in the term?
- Have students save all of the above so they have some material to help them write their reflective letter at the end of the quarter.
We suggest that if you show a sample letter do it on the overhead, instead of giving your students hard copies of the letter(s). Believe it or not, some students do tend to plagiarize the sample letter. The models are not intended to be prescriptive or examples of a "perfect" letters; instead, it should give you and your students a general idea of what they might produce in response to the prompt.
To HCC Writing Faculty:
As part of the course requirement in writing 101, I have prepared this portfolio to help demonstrate my writing ability. This portfolio consists of two of the essays I have written this quarter � an exploratory essay and a rogerian essay. Once you�ve read my essays, you will begin to formulate your opinion of where I as stand as a writer and my area of strengths and weaknesses, but let me first give you my perspective.
To begin, I would like to discuss my areas of strength using my exploratory paper. This particular paper best illustrates my strength in organization, maintaining focus, and using relevant support and evidence. First of all, the paper is well organized because the introduction and conclusion creatively tied the essay together and each paragraph is focused around an individual point. Furthermore, the uses of transitions are effective which helps tie individual points together. Secondly, the essay is clearly focused around the claim; everything I have included in the essay helps contribute to my message. Finally, my supports and evidences are strong because there are a variety of support (quotes, examples, details, etc).
Now, let me discuss my areas of weakness using both papers. I believe that many of my weaknesses come into play when I am revising my papers. One weakness is the lack of ability to further elaborate on the support and evidence by thinking critically. I may have a good support but I can always strengthen it by being more concrete and vivid. Another weakness is the use of sentence variety. I noticed that the majority of the sentences are very long throughout the essays � which tend to make the essay �dull�. The last, but most important, weakness I will mention is the tone of voice. This is probably one of the major areas I need to improve on. I have to be more careful with my word choice and keep my audience in mind when writing my paper.
With all that said, as I move forth to the next level of writing, one of my goals is to improve my writing skills. One way I have done to improve my writing is by thinking more critically about my ideas whenever I revise my paper. I don�t just look at grammatical error, but instead I look for ways to make my sentences more effective and concise. Nevertheless, I hope that this strategy will continue to help me improve my writing even further on in the future.
To my Portfolio Graders at Highline:
My portfolio is compiled of an in class write up, an Exploratory paper, and a Rogerian argument paper. My Rogerian and Exploratory both deal with the controversial topic of genetically modified foods. My Rogerian paper shows how well I can do the research and sympathize with the opposing side. My Exploratory paper shows how well I can spruce up a paper, given helpful hints from my peers and teacher, plus repeated attempts.
In both my papers I have a clear and strong focus with some good evidence. I use a couple of good examples in the Rogerian paper for the opposing side and in my Exploratory paper I support other points of view as well as my own. With my papers I really wanted to inform my audience of all the details because I feel that genetically modified foods are misunderstood. My thoughts are usually jumbled and although I got my introduction and conclusion out pretty well I feel that my transitions need work.
Whenever I�m writing a paper I tend to write what comes to mind and it�s always unorganized at first. I go back to rearrange my thoughts and tend to forget to throw in fancy words. My language maturity isn�t too high and I have a habit of keeping my sentences simple. Once I have my peers edit my paper and my teacher has gone over it I am comfortable enough with my paper to change it up and throw in some words to add flair.
Writing has never come ease for me; I enjoy math and science much more. When I started Writing 101 I expected it to be my hardest class with my worst grade but I worked hard on and came up with good papers, maybe not great but they�re good. Having a topic that means something to me makes writing easier for me and I enjoyed writing these papers this quarter.
Dear portfolio committee:
Learning is a continuum, especially writing, because it needs practice. The more I practice, the better I become. No one was born to be a writer. As an English as a second language (ESL) student, I took this advice from my writing 101 instructor at the beginning of the course seriously. In class, I practice writing by learning how to summarize essays from the text book, and then give my opinions about the reading. Also, journals and projects are part of the class assignments every week to aid me to success in the writing field.
Through these exercises-- as you can see from my attached essay �What is love? Baby, don�t hurt me�--I have many good ideas, and examples to support my arguments about love. I have done well at �Focus� to hook the readers into my essay by using sources such as dictionary, song lyrics, and quotes. Plus, I am able to provide evidence of the 4 W�s--Who, What, Where, and When--to establish a solid proof of my essay.
Besides many strengths, I also have some weaknesses that all of the ESL students have such as grammar and composition since the grammar is far different from my native tongue. Putting ideas into words, complexity, and linguistic maturity are my struggles, but I am trying to improve those areas in order to become a better writer. Even though my tone is not as strong and persuasive, I always try to use different styles to entertain the readers.
I am taking this opportunity to show you my ability to write even with the strengths and weaknesses. I know that writing 101 course will not only help me to become a good writer in class but in the real world, especially in the work place.
Thank you for your time reading my letter and essay. Hope you enjoy my writing.
Back to ENGL 101 Exit Assessment
Share with Friends
How deep is your commitment to reflective practice?
Do you maintain a reflective journal? Do you blog? Do you capture and archive your reflections in a different space?
Do you consistently reserve a bit of time for your own reflective work? Do you help the learners you serve do the same?
I began creating dedicated time and space for reflection toward the end of my classroom teaching career, and the practice has followed me through my work at the WNY Young Writer’s Studio. I’ve found that it can take very little time and yet, the return on our investment has always been significant.
Observations about reflection
- Reflection makes all of us self-aware. It challenges us to think deeply about how we learn and why and why not.
- Reflection deepens ownership. When we reflect, we become sensitive to the personal connection that exists between ourselves, our learning, and our work. The more we consider these connections, the deeper they seem to become. Reflection makes things matter more.
- Reflection helps us get comfortable with uncomfortable. It also helps us fail forward. It’s through reflection that we’ve discovered our greatest power as a writing community: our collective expertise and our willingness to encourage and celebrate risk-taking.
- Reflection helps us know ourselves better. It helps us sharpen our vision, so we can align our actions to it. Reflection also helps us notice when we’re getting off track.
- Perhaps most importantly, reflection helps us advocate for ourselves and support others. Taking the time to reflect enables us to identify what we want, what we need, and what we must do to help ourselves. It also helps us realize how our gifts and strengths might be used in service to others.
I find that often, we struggle to find time to support reflective practice. Deadlines drive instruction far too much than they should, forcing learners and teachers to value perfection, products, and grades more than the development of softer and perhaps, more significant skills. Devoting a few moments at the end of class can make a real difference though, particularly when you pitch a few powerful prompts at learners. These are the ten questions that elicit the most powerful responses from the students I work with.
Ten Reflective Questions to Ask at the End of Class
1. Reflect on your thinking, learning, and work today. What were you most proud of?
2. Where did you encounter struggle today, and what did you do to deal with it?
3. What about your thinking, learning, or work today brought you the most satisfaction? Why?
4. What is frustrating you? How do you plan to deal with that frustration?
5. What lessons were learned from failure today?
6. Where did you meet success, and who might benefit most from what you’ve learned along the way? How can you share this with them?
7. What are your next steps? Which of those steps will come easiest? Where will the terrain become rocky? What can you do now to navigate the road ahead with the most success?
8. What made you curious today?
9. How did I help you today? How did I hinder you? What can I do tomorrow to help you more?
10. How did you help the class today? How did you hinder the class today? What can you do tomorrow to help other learners more?
The learners I serve typically capture these reflections in a special section of their notebooks. These entries grow in number over the course of time, and eventually, they revisit them to prepare for conferences.
The influence that asking reflective questions has on the quality of our conferences is incredible. In fact, I hesitate to confer with kids unless they’ve had a chance to pursue purposeful reflection first.
Try it yourself. See how it makes a difference for your students. You can find a set of printable reflective prompts here.
About The Author
A former English teacher, Angela Stockman is the founder of the WNY Young Writer's Studio, a community of writers and teachers of writing in Buffalo, New York. She is also an education consultant with expertise in curriculum design, instructional coaching, and assessment. Read more from Angela at Angelastockman.com.