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Writing Center

First-Year Writing Portfolio

A Part of the SpEl.Folio Project at Spelman College

The due date for the Writing Portfolio is Monday, September 21, 2020.

Writing Portfolio Guidelines 2019-2020

Here you will find guidelines for completing your First-Year Writing Portfolio. If you have questions after reading the guidelines, please visit the Writing Center (3rd Floor, Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby, Ed.D. Academic Center) to obtain schedules for workshops you can attend to help strengthen your portfolio; information on obtaining one-on-one tutoring; and models of successful First-Year Writing Portfolios.

What is a Portfolio? What Is It For?

A portfolio is a compilation of work that has been put together for a specific purpose, and generally includes reflection on the whole. The First-Year Writing Portfolio at Spelman College has four primary purposes:

  1. Demonstrate your achievements as a writer and critical thinker during your first year at Spelman.
  2. Enable assessment of your work as a writer and critical thinker. This includes your own self- assessment as well as assessment by a faculty jury.
  3. Evaluate your level of preparedness to continue in more advanced writing and critical-thinking projects as you continue your education.
  4. Determine what additional support you may need as a writer and critical thinker.

Strong portfolios are built through a process of collection, selection, and reflection. In other words, the portfolio is more than just a showcase of your work; it is a location in which you make judgments about how best to present yourself as an academic writer, and in which you provide reflections that help you and your readers better understand how the portfolio was developed.

What Is the First-Year Writing Portfolio?

Spelman College supports the First-Year Writing Portfolio—along with other elements of the First Year Experience SpEl.Folio—with the ePortfolio program in Chalk and Wire. The advantages to completing an electronic portfolio are many: it is portable and flexible; it builds upon skills learned in first-year core classes including CIS 100, English 103, and ADW 111-112; it enables a high level of creativity in presenting your work; it builds and showcases skills which are attractive to employers and graduate schools; and, most important, it encourages you to show the connections between the many different skills you learn in your first year at Spelman.

Your participation in the FYE 102-First-Year Experience will include submission of this First-Year Writing Portfolio by Sept. 21, 2020. As you will see below, the portfolio involves much of your writing experience during the 2019-2020 academic year. In addition to this portfolio that will be read and scored by Spelman and other faculty, you will complete other SpEl.Folio writing projects as they appear on your FYE 102 syllabus. Below are the directions for the First-Year Writing Portfolio to be submitted to ePortfolio at the end of the school year.

If you have questions about this process, please contact Dr. Michelle Bachelor Robinson ( / 404-270-5580).

What Are the Goals for Your Learning?

A student who successfully completes the First-Year Writing Portfolio demonstrates the ability to

  1. Conceive and develop a clear and focused academic essay.
  2. Use relevant and reliable sources in support of an essay, with appropriately integrated evidence and documentation. Evidence may be drawn from experience, research of the literature (both print and multimedia), and/or empirical investigation.
  3. Analyze and synthesize evidence.
  4. Develop a clear sense of the rhetorical choices available for varied audiences and purposes, including voice, tone, diction, structure, and format.
  5. Develop a clear sense of the composing processes required for various genres, including but not limited to academic research papers, multi-media compositions, and oral presentations.
  6. Conduct accurate analytical and synthetic reflection on composing content and on the student’s development over time.

What is the Administrative Process for the First-Year Writing Portfolio?

The First-Year Writing Portfolio is a collaborative project from the Comprehensive Writing Program (CWP), the African Diaspora and the World Program (ADW), the English department, and the Office of Undergraduate Studies. In cooperation with FYE 101-102, the CWP distributes the assignment, schedules support workshops, offers individual peer tutorials, and facilitates the evaluation process.

ADW and the English Department assign writing projects suitable to the Writing Portfolio’s content. Your submission of your portfolio is among the requirements for passing FYE 102. In your second year, you will receive the results of the portfolio reading and either pass, or resubmit for a second reading (in January). Those who do not pass the resubmitted portfolio will be enrolled in a two-credit English course, English 150.

How Is the First-Year Writing Portfolio Evaluated?

The CWP assembles a jury of readers from across various departments at Spelman, as well as expert readers from other schools. Each portfolio is read by at least two jury members and is assigned an evaluation of “Pass” or “Resubmit.” If the two jury members’ evaluations are in agreement, the evaluation stands. If the two jury members’ evaluations are different, a consensus decision will be reached or, in some cases, a third reader will determine the outcome. A copy of the assessment rubric is available in ePortfolio.

You will receive detailed feedback on your writing portfolio through the scoring record on ePortfolio. Remember that feedback comments on the essays as a whole, as well as on the cover letter reflection in distinctive categories. A few outstanding SpEl.Folios may be assessed as “Exemplary.”

When Is the First-Year Writing Portfolio Due? What Happens After That?

  • Portfolios are due Monday, Sept. 14, 2020.
  • Portfolios are assessed in September 2020.
  • Individual results will be posted in ePortfolio during the Fall Semester of 2020.

How Do I Turn In My First-Year Writing Portfolio?

First-Year Writing Portfolios will be submitted through your account in ePortfolio2. Early submission is desirable and welcome. In the months before the submission date, decide upon appropriate essays, consult your advisor, facilitator, or instructor about them, and revise and edit them.

The penalty for non-submission or late submission will be failure of FYE 101- 102. Thus, if you do not meet the guidelines, your Writing Portfolio will be evaluated with the next year’s resubmits, in Spring 2021.

What Does “Resubmit” Mean?

An assessment of “Resubmit” means that the writing in this First-Year Writing Portfolio indicates that the author will need additional support in one or more area(s) in order to be prepared for her upper-level writing and critical-thinking work. Each student whose Writing Portfolio receives an assessment of “Resubmit” also receives information designed especially for her, specifying workshops to attend and at least one visit to a Writing Center tutor.

Common reasons for Writing Portfolios to be evaluated “Resubmit” have included the following: insufficient citation (in-text and/or on the “Works Cited”/ “References” page); lack of a central focus; lack of demonstrated ability to use references in service of the author’s own argument (rather than simply “pasting in” quotations or paraphrases); lack of correct grammar and mechanics; and failure to include one or more required written pieces.

For portfolios initially submitted in September 2020, resubmissions shall be due in Spring 2021.

What Should Be Included in My First-Year Writing Portfolio?

Your Writing Portfolio will contain three essays, as well as the items specified in the checklist below. Here’s a summary of the three essays to include:

Section A: A letter of critical reflection, addressed to the assessment reader, that discusses the contents of your portfolio. This letter must follow the guidelines on page 5. It must be at least 800 words.

Section B: An academic argument or critical essay written during your time at Spelman. Although this essay does not have to be structured as an argument, a critical essay will have a discernible thesis that takes a clear position, with strong topic sentences in each paragraph, that provide evidence and support of that thesis. A critical essay will not inform (explain something), narrate (tell a story), or be reflective (recall a personal experience). This essay may or may not include research; however, if you do include sources, you must properly document the use of those sources. It must be 1,000 words or more.

Section C: An academic argument or critical essay written during your time at Spelman. This essay must include evidence and documentation from at least two sources, and those sources should be properly documented both within the text and on the reference page. It must be 1,000 words or more.


FYE Checklist

Section A Guidelines

The first section of your Writing Portfolio is a letter introducing yourself to the assessment committee and offering a critical self-assessment of your work as a writer during your first year at Spelman College. A portfolio is more than the sum of its parts; its real value lies in its ability to demonstrate the meaningful connections between its parts. Your reflective letter is your opportunity to articulate and deepen your readers’, and your own, awareness of those connections.
Audience and tone. Address your letter to the assessment committee. The tone of your letter should be moderately formal. In other words, assume that you are addressing faculty, but don’t feel you have to take a highly formal or distant tone. Write in the first-person singular (“I”). Be as candid and specific as possible.

Structure. The structure of your letter should be clear and simple. This is not an academic essay, so you don’t need a thesis. If you wish, you may answer each of the questions in order. Please note the evaluation descriptors for this reflection letter in the rubric.

Content. It’s fine to address topics not included in the following questions. However, do be sure that your letter, at a minimum, provides a full and detailed response to each of the following questions.

  • During your first year at Spelman, how have you developed as a writer?  What writing skills have you acquired that you will carry forward into future classes? Explain exactly how you acquired each skill you mention.
  • Why did you choose the two essays in Sections B and C? What do they demonstrate about you as a writer that you would like the assessment committee to notice? Be specific about what you accomplished in each of these essays.
  • Which of the three pieces in your portfolio most engaged you as a writer? Why?
  • During your first year at Spelman, what writing skills have you realized you need more work on? How will you get the ongoing support you need? Explain exactly how you plan to improve each skill you mention.
  • How is writing and/or critical thinking relevant to you as a student moving into your major? How might one or both these abilities be relevant to you after you graduate?

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