In Spring 2018 my colleague Margaret Frozena and I reimagined our ENG102: Research, Rhetoric, and Writing courses to revolve around an ePortfolio, supported by a grade contract. Students composed several digital projects, including a running research bibliography, an audio essay, a curated image archive of original and Creative Commons images, and an informative webtext.
We shared information about our redesign and its impact at the 2018 Pedagogicon, a conference focused on student-centered learning; you can read about our process and see assignment prompts at eportfoliowriting.wordpress.com
We redesigned our course based on the idea that audience awareness, information literacy, and genre flexibility are vital for students’ academic, workplace, and personal success. At our university, ENG102 helps develop these skills. Traditionally, ENG102 includes a semester-long project involving library research and an MLA-style paper. While this model successfully introduces students to principles of information literacy (including source evaluation and synthesis), we find it limiting in regards to student-to-student interaction, audience awareness, and genre flexibility.
Drawing from research on new-media composition (Palmeri; Wysocki), multi-genre (Romano), and multi-vocal projects (Johnson & Moneysmith), we taught an alternative model for ENG102 with increased library instruction, blogs, drafting several texts from multiple views, and integration of all parts into an E-portfolio (Eynon & Gambino). Students interact regularly in person and online by posting research and responding to peer’s posts and drafts. Students experiment with multiple genres: photography, video, podcasting, and web text. Drafting, feedback, and revision continue all semester, culminating in polished E-portfolios.
We support students’ experimentation through a grade contract, which allows students to determine their own successes and learn from their failings (Danielewicz & Elbow). The contract helps students focus on their writing, not fixate on scores. The E-portfolio and contract enables them to take real composing risks and to own their projects.