Date of Award

2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English

Department

English

First Advisor

Nedra Reynolds

Abstract

Though Linda Adler-Kassner and Peggy O’Neill claim that ethical writing assessment models "must be designed and built collaboratively, with careful attention to the values and passions of all involved, through a process that provides access to all," college students have not typically been included in scholarly conversations about writing and assessment (Reframing Writing Assessment to Improve Teaching and Learning 2010). In response, this dissertation privileges the perspectives of 18 college students at a mid-sized university from different majors and at varying levels of a vertical writing curriculum (100, 200, 300, and 400) to examine their experiences with a common writing assessment model—the electronic portfolio. This study uses a qualitative approach to listen well (Royster) for the messy truths (Broad) and emergent learning insights (Gallagher) students offer about their e-portfolio experiences, paying careful attention to the writerly selves (Yancey) they perform. Findings suggest that students desire connections between their past and present e-portfolio experiences, between the assignments and artifacts they are required to produce for an e-portfolio, between themselves, their peers, their instructors, and outside audiences, and between writing courses and across writing experiences within and outside of their majors. Students report valuing the e-portfolio because it offers them opportunities for revision, ample time to compose, and an alternative to final exams. This study also reveals a curious contradiction between this Millennial generation of "digital natives" who value technological expertise yet who also express anxiety about technology. Valuing writing primarily as alphabetic text, they exhibit uncertainty with design, and want more digital, modal, and design support. They also desire clear and consistent instructor expectations and a deeper "sense" of an e-portfolio assignment—more than descriptive lists, outcomes, and rubrics—so that it serves or works for them and not only writing instructors and institutions. The study calls for writing instructors and program and university administrators to attend closely to the evolutions and performances of students' writerly selves throughout any assessment experience.

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