This course uses the Learning Record, an online portfolio assessment method. In this method, you determine your grade by monitoring and documenting your own work processes throughout the semester. You create a portfolio of work, record frequent short assessments, and develop longer more formal reflections on your work at the midterm and end of semester. The portfolio and short assessments provide evidence through which you will make an argument for your performance in the course. After reviewing your arguments, I will agree with or revise your self-assessment. The goal is to demonstrate the evolution and development of your skills over the term.

You’ll assess your performance within five Course Strands (broad-level goals that cover a variety of skills specific to the course) and you’ll gauge your experience across five Dimensions of Learning (measures that are common to many different learning experiences for many kinds of learners).

The Learning Record has many benefits you’ll learn as you work through it, but it is particularly useful in classes where students may begin the term with a wide variety of differing skill sets.

Course Strands

Visual Rhetoric
Visual rhetoric is a component of visual literacy. Broadly, visual rhetoric is concerned with: the use of images as argument, arrangement of elements, use of typography, and analysis of existing images and media. We are surrounded by visual arguments; in this course we’ll pay careful attention to the ways visual rhetoric impacts our daily life and our understanding of different perspectives.

This is a visual rhetoric course, so we’ll be broadening our ideas of what counts as a text, and what counts as writing. You’ll be composing careful and thoughtful arguments across a variety of mediums (including traditional papers), analyze how other creators are making their arguments, and spend time revising your own and other’s work. Regardless of format, composition is a process rather than a fixed product.

Digital literacy
Digital literacy is something that tends to exist on either end of a spectrum of ideas; some skills, such as typing, are so ubiquitous we tend not to think about them. On the other end, when confronted with unfamiliar software or media can cause us to draw a complete blank. In this class, you’ll become familiar with a variety of digital media. Ideally, you’ll increase your skills in at least one format, learn at least one entirely new skill, demonstrate improved ability in analyzing multimodal texts, and participate in collaborative online environments.

Invention is one of the core principles of rhetoric. Aristotle thought rhetoric was primarily about invention, or the idea of finding “the best available means of persuasion.” We start thinking about invention by examining the relationships between ideas. One way to think about invention is as a place to discover things; we might think about cause and effect, maxims, or similarity and difference. Like all rhetoric courses, this class will focus on discovering interesting questions that emerge from analyzing the relationships between ideas. While a traditional essay is one way to examine and develop arguments, in this class you’re encouraged to try new mediums of argumentation and create arguments across mediums.

Dimensions of Learning

Learning theorists have argued that learning and development are not like an assembly-line which can be broken down into discrete steps occurring with machine-time precision, but an organic process that unfolds in complex ways according to its own pace and rhythm. Teaching and learning occurs in complex ecosystems, dynamic environments where teachers, students, materials and supplies, texts, technologies, concepts, social structures, and architectures are interdependently related and interactive. These dimensions cannot be “separated out” and treated individually; rather, they are dynamically interwoven.

Individually, learners can expect to make progress across these five dimensions:

Confidence and independence
We see growth and development when learners’ confidence and independence become congruent with their actual abilities and skills, content knowledge, use of experience, and reflectiveness about their own learning. It is not a simple case of “more (confidence and independence) is better.” In a science class, for example, an overconfident student who has relied on faulty or underdeveloped skills and strategies learns to seek help when facing an obstacle; or a shy student begins to trust her own abilities, and to insist on presenting her own point of view in discussion. In both cases, students are developing along the dimension of confidence and independence.

Skills and strategies
Skills and strategies represent the “know-how” aspect of learning. When we speak of “performance” or “mastery,” we generally mean that learners have developed skills and strategies to function successfully in certain situations. Skills and strategies are not only specific to particular disciplines, but often cross disciplinary boundaries. In a writing class, for example, students develop many specific skills and strategies involved in composing and communicating effectively, from research to concept development to organization to polishing grammar and correctness, and often including technological skills for computer communication.

Use of prior and emerging experience
The use of prior and emerging experience involves learners’ abilities to draw on their own experience and connect it to their work. A crucial but often unrecognized dimension of learning is the capacity to make use of prior experience as well as emerging experience in new situations. In a math class, students scaffold new knowledge through applying the principles and procedures they’ve already learned: algebra depends on the capacity to apply basic arithmetic procedures, for example.

Reflection refers to the developing awareness of the learner’s own learning process, as well as more analytical approaches to the subject being studied. When we speak of reflection as a crucial component of learning, we are not using the term in its commonsense meaning of reverie or abstract introspection. We are referring to the development of the learner’s ability to step back and consider a situation critically and analytically, with growing insight into his or her own learning processes, a kind of metacognition. Learners need to develop this capability in order to use what they are learning in other contexts, to recognize the limitations or obstacles confronting them in a given situation, to take advantage of their prior knowledge and experience, and to strengthen their own performance.

Learning Records will be created in our pbworks wiki.

Grade Expectations

Represents outstanding participation in all course activities and all assigned work completed on time. Also represents very high quality in all work produced for the course. LR provides evidence of significant development across the six dimensions of learning. The Learning Record at this level demonstrates activity that goes significantly beyond the required course work in one or more course strands.

Represents excellent participation in all course activities and all assigned work completed on time. Also represents consistently high quality in course work. Evidence of marked development across the six dimensions of learning and the course strands.

Represents good participation in all course activities and all assigned work completed. Also represents generally good quality overall in course work. Evidence of some development across the six dimensions of learning and course strands.

Represents uneven participation in course activities and some gaps in assigned work completed. Represents inconsistent quality in course work. Evidence of development across the six dimensions of learning and course strands is partial or unclear.

Represents minimal participation in course activities, serious gaps in assigned work completed, or very low quality in course work. Evidence of development is not available.

+/- Grades. Plus and minus grades will be used in awarding final grades for this course and will be given where LR evidence clearly falls between the criteria for two letter grades.