Writing and Selectivity

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Writing and Selectivity

Writing in the Profession

Being able to present information to a variety of audiences in both written and oral form is an important aspect of any profession. Teaching is no different. To get started in the profession, you write a letter and construct a resume whenever you apply for a job. Imagine a principal reading a letter that’s poorly organized and riddled with errors. Then think about that same principal reading a well-constructed, clear letter. All qualifications being equal, which candidate is more likely to get that job?
 
All teachers write. They write a lot, and not just lesson plans. They write assessments, evaluations of their own teaching and that of others; they write to parents; they write instructions that must be clear and helpful; they write professional presentations; they write grants. More and more, they write their own web pages and even construct—and provide text for—entire websites.
 
The proficiencies all require prose that is clear, thoughtful, detailed, and correct. Evaluators do not line edit your work, but they will send it back for revisions based on poor writing. Read your reflections carefully before submission for clarity and completeness. Proofread and clean up errors. Written work with fragments, agreement errors, run-on sentences, etc. impedes understanding and undermines your credibility as a professional. 
 
The University of Texas at Austin runs an Undergraduate Writing Center that is nationally ranked. You can get great help with the reflections for the portfolio.
 
From the UWC webpage: The Undergraduate Writing Center (UWC) offers free, individualized, expert help with writing for any UT undergraduate, by appointment or on a drop-in basis. The writer works with a trained consultant to define goals for the session, for example:

  • deciding on a topic
  • clarifying and organizing ideas
  • researching, drafting, and revising
  • improving grammar, punctuation, and usage
  • citing sources properly

Go to the UWC homepage for more information.

Writing the Reflections

For the preliminary portfolio, expect to generate about 1-2 pages total for each subsection or proficiency. The analysis makes clear to the evaluator how the evidence (lesson plan, teacher observation, etc.) relates to the proficiency. This section must be clear and lucid. It is insufficient to say something like, “This lesson plan engaged all students in meaningful learning experiences” (6.a). Explain how students were engaged and how you knew that, referring both to specific aspects of the lesson plan and student response that support your contention. Be descriptive. Help the evaluator understand the context. Next, be reflective. Discuss the importance of the proficiency for education. What happened during this experience? What would you change? What would you do the same? 
 
The most successful portfolios include reflections that meet the following criteria:

  • They carefully identify which part of which item demonstrates which proficiency.
  • They describe as clearly as possible HOW an item demonstrates that proficiency.
  • They share specific details that help the reviewer understand your point of view and the context of your experience.
  • They address the value of the proficiency for education in general.
  • They include every aspect of each proficiency. The individual proficiencies or subsections break down into several aspects. Be sure you address them all. 
  • They conform to the standards of written English.

Writing Help

Your student fees support one of the best writing centers in the country. Trained writing counselors will work with you on the portfolio, even from scratch. They’re great at brainstorming and invention.

Selectivity

Guide the evaluator to the relevant section of an artifact, using bold face or highlighting.  You can do this in the word document and then, when you are done, PDF the document to maintain the formatting. Under no circumstances should an evaluator have to hunt around in the artifact trying to figure out how the artifact is relevant to the proficiency.
 
Similarly, if you include a teaching video, explain to the evaluator which part of the video is relevant and why it’s relevant, and provide a time stamp, e.g. from 12:42 to 15:34. Just as an evaluator should not have to hunt around in your lesson plan for the relevant section, an evaluator should not have to screen 30 minutes of video trying to figure out which section to look at. Evaluators have been instructed to return for revision any proficiencies with unedited video for evidence. 
 
Redundancy is a good thing. If you use a lesson plan more than once (which is likely and acceptable), save it as separate documents: CBR 2.a,CBR 6.c, etc. Highlight the relevant areas for each individual proficiency. This helps you make sure the evaluator knows which part of the lesson plan supports which proficiency. 

When Portfolios Must Be Revised

The most common reasons why proficiencies need to be resubmitted are:

  • Omissions: There is a lot of ground to cover and students sometimes simply omit a part of a section. Careful proofreading helps. 
  • Unclear connections: Evaluators will assign zero points when the reflection does not make clear how the evidence relates to the proficiency.
  • No evidence at all: Include at least one piece of evidence or artifact per proficiency.
  • Poor writing: Evaluators do not line edit, but they do return proficiencies for revision due to poor writing. Take advantage of UT resources like the Undergraduate Writing Center.

It is your responsibility to check in on your portfolio to see if revisions are required. Because there are no extensions for late revisions, this is a critical responsibility. If you have any questions concerns at all about the revision process, contact the Portfolio Coordinator immediately.