English-W131 Curriculum Guide

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The Midterm Portfolio in English-W131


Once students have completed the initial assignments of the semester, as indicated on the The Framework for English-W131 and the The Organizing the Course pages, they should produce a midterm portfolio for evaluation. In actuality, the midterm portfolio may be less technically a portfolio as students submit one paper and its associated work in order to demonstrate progress on the course's goals (whereas a portfolio of work typically means a range of products showing one's abilities). The "associated work" they submit for the portfolio should include the ways they generated ideas for their paper, initial drafts and revisions (including a well-prepared final draft), reader responses (including instructor response), a writer's statement outlining the process the student used to develop the paper, and a retrospective essay of three to five pages reflecting on the degree to which progress on the course goals is being made.

In general, then, midterm portfolios will be made up of two packets:

  • One for the revised paper they are submitting (which should be 4 to 6 pages in length), including the paper's drafts, the reader responses it received, and its writer's statement; and
  • One for the reflective essay of 3 to 5 pages commenting on the progress on the course goals.

When writing the three- to five-page reflective essay (called a Portfolio Retrospective Essay), students should recognize the importance of supporting claims regarding progress on the course goals with clear references to what appears in the portfolio. Such references can be made with language such as the following: "In the third paragraph on page two of my revised essay, the reader will note that I . . . ." This sort of language is important because it leads students beyond generalized statements—"I have improved"—to statements that pinpoint why they can say they have improved: "I have improved in my ability to assert a thesis statement, as you will see by looking at my thesis in the third paragraph of my essay (on page two). This thesis, 'Turkle's assessment of our generation's attention span needs to be taken seriously because we will have problems over time if we do not,' reflects what we have been saying in class about the need for a strong thesis that asserts a debatable position on a focused topic. This statement shows the degree to which I have evolved the thesis over time, especially if the reader compares this statement with the earlier versions of the thesis in my previous drafts. In addition, it is supported by what I say in the rest of the essay." In truth, students may have difficulty writing with such detail at midterm, but they should be encouraged to reach for this level of specificity, as it reflects an important lession of the course: supporting positions with specific references to the available information.

The retrospective essay may be written as a narrative, but it should, in some meaningful way, connect the work in the portfolio with progress on the course goals. In addition, students sometimes wonder whether it is redundant in the midterm portfolio to ask for a reflective essay and a writer's statement at the same time. This is a legitimate concern; however, each of these types of writing should focus on different aspects of the work in the portfolio. The writer's statement, for example, should concern itself with the experience of composing and revising the paper itself, while the reflective essay should take a broader look at the personal growth of the student as a writer and the relationship of this growth to progress on the course's goals. It is conceivable, though, that the two purposes could be combined into one essay, which should easily fall within the three- to five-page range.)

Eligibility Requirement for the Midterm Portfolio

In order to be eligible to hand in a midterm portfolio, which is worth roughly 1/3 of the semester grade, students should have completed any formal paper assignments for the first half of the course in time to revise one of them ahead of the midterm portfolio due date. Students who are behind should be encouraged to catch up, but they should be warned that late penalties will apply if they do not catch up in time to meet the portfolio's due date (typically one-third of a grade, a B+ to a B, a B to a B-, and so on, per class period late).

Responding to Midterm Portfolios

Evaluation of midterm portfolios should be communicated to students through 1) a written response from the instructor that clearly indicates the instructor's assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the work, and 2) the portfolio grade. The Writing Coordinating Committee asks that when instructors provide response to midterm portfolios they use a response sheet that indicates the basis for the evaluation. This sheet will be most helpful if it includes a visual, such as a Leikert scale with a range from very good or excellent to poor or failing. The scale should be used to show how well the student is progressing as he or she works to achieve the course's goals. In addition, an overall comment should be provided that summarizes the evaluation, and what the student's grade is. (Instructors may want to consult the "Goals, Guidelines, Grading, and Policies" folder--in the "W131 Resources" folder in the WP Faculty Resources site on Oncourse, where examples of response or grading sheets for the midterm portfolio are available).

For guidance on their evaluations, instructors should consult the midterm grading guideline seen in the "Goals, Guidelines, Grading, and Policies" folder in the WP Faculty Resources site on Oncourse. Instructors should also consult the The Grading Guidelines for W131 page of this curriculum guide. In addition, instructors should consider what has been covered in the first half of the course and how this work represents progress on the course's goals. However, faculty are free to negotiate with their students what kinds of outcomes would represent progress on each of the course's goals given what has occurred in their individual section, and to base grading decisions and their response form on this discussion.

As emphasized above, this evaluation should be based on progress on the course's goals. Faculty should note, though, that a student who earns an F on the midterm portfolio can still pass the course, but he or she must complete any late formal paper assignments and must submit a full version of the midterm portfolio to continue with papers in the second half of the course. Passing after earning an F will be difficult, but it is possible (see the "Late Portfolio Submissions" section of the Dealing with Late Work in English-W131 page of this curriculum guide).

Sample Midterm Portfolio Assignment Sheet

The Midterm Portfolio Assignment


The midterm portfolio is designed to give you a chance to share some of the writing you have done in the course thus far and to demonstrate the progress you are making on the course's goals.  To produce this portfolio, you should review the papers you have completed thus far and pick one to revise, following both the feedback you have received and your own insights on the essay's purpose, audience, and genre.  Along with this revised paper, you should compose a Portfolio Retrospective Essay, an essay that reviews your progress on the course goals, reviews your work on the chosen paper, and makes a claim about how well the course goals are being achieved.


Before a portfolio can be submitted, the formal assignments from the first half of the semester must be completed and submitted.

Review of the Contents

1.   Portfolio Retrospective Essay

The Portfolio Retrospective Essay is an essay of 3 - 5 pages that makes connections between the work in the portfolio and the course goals.  Its intent is to help readers see the degree to which you are achieving the course goals and growing as a writer.  This essay needs to communicate a position on your progress achieving the course goals and use support from the documents in the portfolio to illustrate what you mean.

When you write the essay, keep four things in mind:

  • Provide an introduction to the portfolio, introducing and describing its contents and indicating what prompts you to put together the portfolio. (So, think of your audience as readers who may or may not be aware that you are taking this course and what its requirements are.) Wrap up the essay in some meaningful way as well.
  • Review the semester thus far, the work you have done, and discuss how this work represents progress on the course's goals. As an organizational strategy, it may help to divide this discussion into two parts, one centered on those goals you are clearly making progress on, and one centered on those for which more effort or more attention appears to be needed.
  • Be proactive about the audience. Avoid thinking of the audience as just me, your instructor; think instead of those who may be interested in an essay like this. For example, the audience could include those considering college and wondering what a first-year student learns in a first-semester writing course. Or, the audience could be employers who wonder what the next set of employees are gaining from their first-semester college writing class experience. You can choose, but make this choice reasonable and let the decisions you make while writing be guided by your audience's needs and by the goals of the assignment.
  • Use what appears in the portfolio to illustrate the points you make about your experiences, your growth as a writer, and your progress on the course's goals. Statements such as the following can help you to clearly support the points you make: "If readers will turn to page 4, paragraph 3, they will see that I have ____."

(Please note: This essay does not require a writer’s statement.)


Organization of the Portfolio Retrospective Packet:
  • Cover sheet
  • The Portfolio Retrospective Essay
  • Preparatory work you want to include to show how you worked to develop the essay

Formatting of the Portfolio Retrospective Essay:

  • Length = 3 to 5 pages
  • MLA formatting style

2. The Revised Paper

The chosen paper is to be revised and lengthened to 4 to 6 pages (1300-1950 words), double-spaced, and it should contain appropriate MLA headers, a title, appropriate pagination, MLA in-text documentation, and an MLA Works Cited page. 

Along with the final version of the paper, it is important to show the work that helped you to prepare it for the portfolio.  You should do so by including the work you did to generate ideas, the initial draft, at least one later revision, the reader responses you received (including my instructor responses), and the final version of the paper. In addition, the paper's writer's statement should be included, but it should be updated to reflect all the changes you made to prepare the paper for this portfolio.  

All of these documents should be organized so that the newest appears first, and the oldest appears last. See the organizational checklist below.

Organizational Checklist for the Revised Essay (at minimum):

Newest documents

Oldest Document

  • Cover Sheet (indicating which essay you are submitting)
  • The paper's writer's statement
  • The polished draft, 4 to 6 pages in length
  • Reader response to a previous version (the instructor's response?)
  • The previous draft
  • First reader response to an initial draft
  • The initial draft
  • Preparatory work on the paper

Portfolio Due Date: Tuesday [or other day of the week, _______[calendar date], in class.

Eligibility to Submit a Midterm Portfolio

In order to be eligible to hand in a midterm portfolio, which is worth 30% of the semester grade, all late work on the two papers of the first half of the course must be completed. Failure to meet this requirement will cause the portfolio to be late and to suffer a late penalty as described on the syllabus (1/3 of a grade for each class period late). You may not work on later papers until the midterm is complete, and you must submit a full midterm portfolio before you will be allowed to go on, even if doing so means that you will only earn an F on the portfolio. Note, though, that a student who earns an F on the midterm portfolio can still pass the course with a focused effort in the second half of the course.


When I grade the portfolio I will use a chart similar to those I have used for the individual papers. This chart will help me to show you the progress you are making on each of the course's goals. I will use guidelines that we will review in class, and I will use these guidelines and what appears in the portfolio to help me to make a decision about what grade your portfolio earns. The letter grade I assign may include a plus (+) or a minus (-) as appropriate.  

Late Portfolios

All portfolios are due when assigned, unless arrangements have been made with me ahead of time.  Late portfolios will be assessed a grade reduction as indicated above and as described on the syllabus.  If you find you need to submit the portfolio late, be sure to contact me about this situation as soon as possible. 


On to The Final Portfolio

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Still have questions? Contact David Sabol, dsabol@iupui.edu, or Scott Weeden, sweeden@iupui.edu

last updated 15 June, 2016