The prompt for the portfolio letter encourages students to use examples from their own work to show how they’ve achieved the course learning objectives. For them to be able to develop strong reflections, they’ll need to be conversant with a number of terms that appear in the learning outcomes, including genre, mode, rhetorical situation, argument, inquiry, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Try to incorporate this vocabulary into your course in ways that require students to use to use the terms as they plan, write, and reflect. Our goal is for students to develop their own theories about writing even as they’re practicing. Indeed, we’d like to make students into “reflective practitioners” who confront new discourse-demanding situations successfully because they have given careful consideration to how writing works across contexts.
Key to a successful letter is the student’s work to include and discuss concrete exhibits from portfolio texts. Depending on the medium in which students develop the portfolio, the exhibits might take the following forms
- A link to the part of a document that the student discusses in her/his reflection (managed via an HTML anchor).
- A screen capture with callouts.
- A screencast in which the student deploys one or more artifacts.
- Quoted or block quoted material from a portfolio artifact.
- Reported feedback from others.
- Process exhibits that juxtapose parts of drafts as part of a narrative.
In short, the strongest reflection letters will show or cite specific parts of artifacts and will include substantial discussion of those exhibits in terms of program learning outcomes.
Finally, throughout the semester as they’re doing their reflective writing, encourage students to think about how that writing articulates with the meaning-making they’re doing in other courses or in their lives outside of school. The reflection prompt encourages students to tell or imagine, based on what they’ve learned in your class, how they have or will address future writing situations differently. Having them think about this articulation throughout the semester is one way to bolster the chance that students will draw on experiences from your course as they write in other situations.