Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Delores B. Gallo

Second Advisor

Steven Schwartz

Third Advisor

Judith Collison


The college composition course is increasingly viewed as a pivotal course in fostering in students the skills they will need for meaningful participation in the discourse of the academy. This course is often the students' initiation into an academic environment that emphasizes the significance of the written word. Because of the nature of teaching the abstract and elusive subject of writing, the course presents significant challenges for many composition instructors. This thesis focuses on the development of a student writing portfolio that provides a powerful means of addressing these issues. The work required to complete the portfolio fosters the students' transition from their original diction to the discourse that meets the standards of their academic community. The portfolio process does so by developing the critical thinking dispositions and abilities needed to succeed in the academic environment. Through the work required to complete the portfolio, students develop the dispositions of self-awareness, intrinsic motivation, and the openness to reflect on their writing process and product. The portfolio process shifts the locus of instruction from the teacher to the students and is a concrete means for students to understand the evolution of their thoughts as they make the rhetorical choices that shape their written discourse. The first chapter of this thesis establishes the general context within which this portfolio model was implemented. This is followed by an analysis of recent cognitive theories of writing as related to writing. Through a discussion of the works of Richard Paul and Robert Ennis, the third chapter of this thesis presents the critical thinking framework that informs the curriculum. The fourth chapter describes the portfolio model and discusses the type of in-class instruction required to prepare students to complete the portfolio. The final chapter discusses the impact of the portfolio on students, faculty, and the institution. The portfolio proved to be a powerful tool in creating many benefits to students, faculty, and the institution. Most significantly, the portfolio was important in bringing about a cultural change, one that recognizes the importance of developing student writing through an interdisciplinary approach to establish writing across the curriculum.

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