Arranging the course around portfolios can also help you meet your students' divergent needs. One of the greatest benefits of a portfolio system is that it allows a student to draft and revise a paper several times over a long period before submitting it for evaluation. In other words, a student can set aside a paper, get some distance from it, (we hope) learn some pertinent skills, and return to it a better or more knowing writer/critic. Additionally, students can afford to take some risks with their papers, risks that are too great when a paper must be written and submitted in a short time. Students are more likely, for example, to experiment with different audiences, voices, types of appeal, or organization because they know they can get feedback on a new approach and either revise until it works or omit the paper from the final portfolio. We would like to think, anyway, that portfolios encourage creativity among all levels of writers. They certainly allow ambitious writers to explore a topic to their heart's content. If a student chooses to emphasize a single paper for several weeks, he or she can really get to know the intricacies of the issue and develop a well-considered argument.
There are, however, drawbacks to portfolio grading. See the two pieces in "Classroom Materials" that discuss advantages and disadvantages. If you'd like still more discussion of the pros and cons of using portfolios, Kate has additional rationales and bibliographis in her office. See also Randy Fetzer's "Portfolio Assessment: Is It Right for CSU's Comp Program?" available in Steve Reid's office. Most importantly, be warned that portfolio grading can be treacherously time-consuming (it doesn't have to be, however!). Choose a grading method that will work for you.
If you do choose to use portfolios, be sure that you plan to return students' first portfolio before the final day on which they can drop and still get a 'W.'
While again not mandatory, portfolio evaluation has been a part of COCC300 from the beginning, and most instructors have so far organized their classes around portfolios, though their approaches vary significantly. Some instructors use portfolios throughout the term; some begin the term by evaluating individual papers, then move into a portfolio format; some begin by evaluating portfolios, then move into an individual essay format. Whether or not you choose to use portfolios, it will be helpful if all instructors continue to require between 20 and 25 pages of polished text from each student.
To give you some idea of how you might fashion a plan that suits your individual goals and tastes, we offer here an overview of several approaches. Please see sample policy statements, syllabi, and portfolio descriptions in "Classroom Materials" for more information.