This morning, I had a great conversation with Casey Reid, the Writing Center Coordinator. We explored ways in which the Honors Program and the Writing Center could support one another. Casey had some exciting ideas that I think will be beneficial to students.
Honors students could be course-embedded tutors for other classes. This option will take some time, as embedded tutors work best when the student and faculty member have already met in a class and established a relationship. There are also scheduling issues to consider, especially given that our students often have jobs and families in addition to taking a full load of classes. Nevertheless, it would be an excellent way for students to engage in experiential learning. I look forward to talking with our coordinator for honors experiential learning and honors cooperative education, Gerry Meenaghan.
Additionally, tutors could be embedded in honors classes, offering a resource to the students in the class and also helping the tutors further develop their skills. I can see this working well in several honors classes, including the seminars.
Our initial steps will be to check in with the current honors writing instructors, Amy Beasley, Anne McGrail, and Eileen Thompson, about these possibilities and to see if there is interest in pursuing them this year. I will also talk with my co-instructor in the seminars, Stacey Kiser, about ways that an embedded tutor could work, especially as the enrollments this year are growing.
When we started the Lane Honors Program, then Vice President Sonya Christian had the program pilot student ePortfolios before ePortfolios were rolled out across the college. Each honors student is required to build and continue working with an ePortfolio while in the program. The ePortfolios were intended to showcase the students’ work, thereby acting as additional tiers to their transcripts and resumes; however, we also found other benefits. Several colleagues across campus who had already been researching ePortfolios formed a think tank, and we began to see that ePortfolios had a lot to offer pedagogically.
To augment the think tank’s work, Anne McGrail, Katie Morrison-Graham, Eileen Thompson, and I applied for, and received, Research and Development funds. We also asked Sarah Lushia and Eileen Thompson to be the leads on ePortfolios. They are each building their own portfolios and are teaching students in their honors WR 121_H and WR 122_H classes how to build portfolios, as well. We used the R & D funds to send Sarah and Eileen to the AAEEBL conference in Boston. They returned with a wealth of evidence that ePortfolios are an effective pedagogical tool that is especially useful for teaching critical thinking, one of Lane’s Core Learning Outcomes (CLOs):
Sarah and Eileen also explained that best practice for using ePortfolios in the classroom is for faculty to build and use ePortfolios themselves. I admit I came to this idea somewhat reluctantly if only because I couldn’t imagine finding the time to work on an ePortfolio. With technological assistance from Kevin Steeves and Jen Klaudinyi, however, I did begin building an ePortfolio:
I found that it was useful for me to think through the ways my various interests and projects intersect. I have also been teaching students in the honors seminars to build portfolios and to use them for critical thinking. This winter will be the first time that I’ll use my own portfolio as part of the instruction in the honors seminars. I’ll be writing about that experience and about the Honors Program’s work to encourage honors faculty to incorporate ePortfolios into their teaching in future posts. In the meantime, I’m including the link to my ePortfolio. It is filled with empty pages and pages with little or no reflection, and while I realize that this is not the recommended way to share one’s portfolio, I’m willing to take the risk. It’s my hope that my learning curves for building an ePortfolio, teaching using ePortfolios, and helping administer a program that requires ePortfolios will progress along parallel paths and reflect related moments of learning best made visible by sharing the entire process.