When are portfolios scored, and when will I receive my score?

Portfolios submitted in Winter and Spring term are scored during over the summer, roughly between commencement and the end of July. It generally takes a week or two to process the results after all of the portfolios have been scored, so students are generally notified of their scores via email in mid-August.

Portfolios submitted in Fall term are generally read over winter break, and students are notified of their score shortly before the start of Winter classes.

Who reads the writing portfolios?

All Carleton faculty and instructional staff members (i.e. staff members who directly support student education) are invited to read portfolios, and there are usually about 30 readers each summer. These readers can (and do!) come from any department on campus – Biology, Linguistics, Dance, Art, Economics, the Library, the Writing Center… you get the idea.

How many people will read my writing portfolio?

Usually one or two. If the first reader scores your portfolio as “needs work” or “exemplary” it will automatically go to a second reader. A few of the “pass” portfolios are also selected at random for re-reading to help us check for inconsistencies in scoring. Regardless of the original score, if the first and second readers disagree, the portfolio goes to a third reader as well to determine the final score (see below).

What if different readers give my portfolio different scores?

If the second reader disagrees with the first, it will be read a third time. (If the third reader disagrees with the second and the first, the portfolio receives a Pass.) However, readers never see the scores previous readers have given a portfolio, and they generally don’t even know if a given portfolio has been read before.

Is there a quota? Are readers supposed to give a certain percentage of “needs work,” “pass,” or “exemplary” scores?

No. On the first day of the portfolio reading, we conduct a “norming” session, in which the whole group of readers read a collection of sample portfolios and we discuss what general qualities distinguish a portfolio as an Exemplary, Pass, and Needs Work. However, readers are instructed to apply these criteria independently to each portfolio they read and explicitly told not to consider how many of each score they award over the course of the reading days.

How many students generally receive Exemplary or Needs Work scores?

In any given year, roughly 6-10% of students receive scores of Exemplary, and roughly the same number receive scores of Needs Work. As the math would indicate, this means that roughly 80-88% of students receive a Pass.

Does my original grade on an assignment affect its score in my portfolio?

No. Your portfolio readers will have no knowledge of the grades you received on the pieces in your portfolio, so it’s impossible for those grades to directly affect your score.

Furthermore, you should keep in mind that the grades you receive in a course reflect many factors–your knowledge of the subject matter, your engagement with certain course concepts, etc. Your portfolio readers, on the other hand, only assess the quality of your writing. Conversely, it’s possible for a piece that received a high grade in the original course to be negatively reviewed by your portfolio readers. It’s also possible for a piece that received a less than stellar grade in the course to be well-written enough to impress your portfolio readers, especially if you revise that piece specifically for the portfolio.

What feedback will I receive?

Portfolio readers are not allowed to make any comments on the portfolios themselves. Instead, readers write a few general comments on each portfolio and submit these along with their scores.

A week or so after you receive your score, you’ll receive a second email that includes the score sheets from all of your readers. Please keep in mind that the majority of students who receive a Pass score will have only one reader, and thus only one score sheet.

We’ll be honest: the amount of feedback readers are able to give can feel a little anticlimactic. With nearly 500 portfolios to score (and over 700 individual readings to determine those scores), readers simply can’t respond with the kind of detailed feedback you may be used to from your instructors. This doesn’t mean that they didn’t read your portfolio carefully and thoughtfully. However, we hope that the primary benefit to you will come from assembling the portfolio, writing the reflective essay, and thinking about your learning over the past two years. The comments from your readers might help to explain your score, but they’re unlikely to make the entire experience seem valuable in and of themselves.

If you have questions about your score or your comments, contact the WAC Director, George Cusack.

What if my portfolio doesn’t pass?

Students who receive a Needs Work score will work with the Director of Writing Across the Curriculum to identify the areas where they needs to improve and to develop these skills in their future classes. For more information on this process, see “What Does a Needs Work Score Mean?