The Core Composition Sequence at Kingsborough Community College, CUNY

Collaborative Portfolio Assessment (CPA)

A Brief History of Portfolios in English 12/12A0, Composition I

English 12/12A0, Composition I, is the first half of the required 2-semester composition sequence at Kingsborough, and, as such, it occupies a prominent place in the educational experience of all Kingsborough students. For many years, students completed their experience in Composition I by taking a common, timed departmental writing exam.  Several faculty members were dissatisfied with the timed exam and decided to craft a system of portfolio assessment with the following goals in mind:

  • to provide students and teachers with clear, shared criteria for passing Composition I;
  • to offer greater support to teachers in making final assessments of their students’ performance;
  • to make judgments of passing and failing Composition I based on assessment by multiple instructors;
  • to incentivize students to take revision seriously as they prepare their final portfolios;
  • to bring more collaboration and social interaction to the experience of teaching Composition I

CPA Evolution and Current Practices

Several major shifts in portfolio assessment have occurred since this small group of faculty developed this process. One was the expansion of CPA in fall 2017, when the CATW exam was eliminated as the requirement to exit out of remediation and we began using CPA in its place. Another major change resulted from the move to online instruction in Spring 2020, which has led many to transition online portfolios even when teaching in person. Most recently, we have needed to revisit the Assessment Criteria originally developed as part of the CPA process, given the English Department’s vote in Spring 2022 to approve new Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs) for Composition I.

As a result of this vote and the new CLOs, we are piloting a modified approach to CPA in Fall 2022. This new approach asks instructors to design courses in which students 1) create final portfolios of their work that demonstrate that they have met the CLOs and 2) compose a written reflection that articulates how this work has met the CLOs.

Portfolio Materials: The materials students are asked to include in their final portfolio may vary from one section to the next, depending on the assignments students complete and the artifacts that best demonstrate learning in the different areas. There will need to be some evidence of revision, for instance, given the first two outcomes listed under “The craft of reading and writing.” Individual instructors and portfolio cohorts will need to consider the most appropriate materials for students to showcase in their portfolios.

Student Self-Assessment: Student self-assessment is an essential part of the portfolio process. (Please see this this article Ed White). However, there are different methods by which students may engage in self-assessment to show that they have met the course learning outcomes and to articulate how the work they are sharing demonstrates accomplishment in those areas. Some possibilities include:

  • A self assessment essay, in which students explain why their portfolio demonstrates that they have met the CLOs using specific examples from their work as evidence.
  • Self-assessment annotations, in which students highlight sections of their work that demonstrate that the have met the CLOs and provide explanations in their comments in the margins.
  • A student-completed self-assessment exercise using a rubric based on the CLOs, such as the sample in this link.
  • A video in which students give portfolio readers a tour of their work and explain how different pieces demonstrate that they have achieved the CLOs.

Timeline and Process 

  1. CPA cohorts are formed early in the semester, ideally before the pre-semester kick-off meeting.
  2. Cohorts schedule a meeting early in the semester to share syllabi, course calendars, and major assignments for Composition I.  At this meeting, faculty should review the Course Learning Objectives and how they plan to guide students in assembling a portfolio that demonstrates learning in these areas.
  3. On or around the last day of class, group members exchange their students’ portfolios for assessment.  It’s important that all members agree upon and commit to this date so that faculty have adequate time to read and respond to the portfolios.
  4. Group members read students’ portfolios, completing this feedback form for any portfolio that they think should fail English 12.  Please note that instructors needn’t do anything for portfolios that are clearly passing.
  5. Teams meets to exchange assessed portfolios, to discuss the assessments that have been made, and to handle any appeals.  If one member disagrees with the initial assessment of a student’s portfolio, one of the other teachers will act as a “second reader” and provide their honest assessment.  If two instructors concur on an assessment, it should stand. Appeals should be handled by the faculty in an assessment group and should not be submitted to the composition coordinators for review.  Please note that failing the portfolio means failing the course.
  6. During Kingsborough’s finals week, instructors set up a two-hour window during which time they can return portfolios to students and hold conferences with students who failed this process.

Collaborative portfolio assessment is mandatory for all new faculty teaching Composition I, serving as a form of course-specific mentoring, and replaces the CUNY-wide, timed writing test (the CATW) for all ALP sections of Composition I. CPA remains voluntary for all other faculty.

Participants in collaborative portfolio assessment–who are not doing so as part of teaching an ALP section– are paid as follows: part-time instructors receive 6 hours of pay at their non-teaching rate, full-time instructors receive .25 credits toward their annual course load.