Civic Engagement Teaching Portfolios

One way to think about providing a sample of a person’s work or learning is to consider the enhancement of teacher and student motivation.  Documenting an approach to learning with evidence of learning that spans a period of time can include written products, visual media, and self-assessments that together can contribute to a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the teaching and learning process (Ginsberg, 2011).

Although the contents of a teaching and learning portfolio may differ from online to face-to-face courses, and disciplinary considerations impact the content and distribution of learning opportunities the following research based givens provide a context for ongoing reflection, goal setting, action, and data collection:

1) There is a significant connection between reflective practice and student learning (Tschannen-Moran, Woolfolk Hoy, & Hoy, 1998).

2) To improve schools, instruction needs to be the central focus of professional learning (Elmore & Burney, 1997).

3) Creativity and critical thinking are essential to adult and student learning (Gardner, 2006).

4) Effective change requires applied research that allows for novely and nuance (Pink, 2009).


With these considerations in mind I thought it might be beneficial to open up the concept of portfolios and adult learning with students.  Beginning with a short three hour group of learners we developed a set of course goals and an assessment rubric using a structured learning opportunity involving academic research of a constitutional amendment. These insights and observations were then considered in the course design process for three courses each with a different medium: 1) face to face; 2) hybrid; and 3) online.

The following is an adaptation of a professional portfolio table of contents outline found in Transformative Professional Learning.  As a community based participatory action researcher, a certified online and writing across curriculum instructor, and with a humanities meets science inspired curricula I wondered how we could apply the course Constitutional Law to ongoing social justice and teaching and learning projects but also with a dedicated eye on documenting learning in fair and useful ways.

Students from the first cohort suggested the following learning outcomes. These learning outcomes will serve as the first draft of a course constitution, otherwise known as a syllabus, where the instructor (myself) holds arbitrary power over the learners not unlike the circumstances of the colonists.  Under a theory of the rule of law and examining the gap between law as ideal and law as real I believe it is imperative to develop a sense of political identity and civic agency throughout the course work and content selected for study.  To ensure a democratic approach to the teaching and learning process with a focus on developing materials for public education, students are co-researchers in the pursuit of academic knowledge and understanding regarding what is arguably one of the most important civic institutions.  Because the so-called traditional mode of higher education (at least public) is not working for all students the candid documentation of what we are learning provides a critical view of the traditional approach while also producing scenes and vignettes of pedagogy to be scrutinized under varying standards and diverse points of view.

At all times my goal is not to disappear from the classroom but instead to remove the farce of domination through grading and re-emerge as a co-partner in the learning process.  Although student resistance is common, particularly in new and challenging environments, the underlying thread that holds the study together is the belief that all learners are motivated to develop their own life long learning path.

As an often described bedrock course for active participation as a citizen there is also a broader understanding that the U.S. Constitution is but one of many constitutions scattered throughout space and time.  For learners to critically analyze the significance of the constitution to their own life while learning new vocabulary, histories, and a legal way of thought mastery of content is likely to be stifled by circumstances outside of the learning environment.  In the traditional course environment feedback is often non-specific and not particularly relevant to the circumstances of most learners.  Throughout this project the goal of improving the documentation and the public learning around teaching and learning for civic action is penultimate. The change required for learning, the choice to apply one’s knowledge, can be measured and documented, especially through self reflection, but one’s motivation to engage in particular civic or social arrangements is a complex and not well understood phenomena of humanity.  As such our ultimate goal is to improve our own understanding of humanity in all its facets.  This assumes individuality and differentiation as givens.  As we move forward in the course study it is imperative that individual well-being be safe guarded and that the learning process be flexible enough to provide imagination and innovation but arranged in a way that provides predictability and transparency to the learner and assessment systems.










In the autumn of 2012 I began the journey, along with an English Professor colleague and friend, to document how we might assess civic learning and democratic engagement from multiple points of view.  It was important to me to first and foremost record the process from a student’s point of view but I also wanted to be sure to capture the style of diverse educators as they work with undergraduate learners in a global, often digital, 21st century.

Over the course of the 3 year study I resolved to the following framework to apply to what we sometimes to loosely refer to as the syllabus.  I followed our department guidelines and outcomes as well as the CUNY common core outcomes.  I also relied heavily on Diversity & Motivation: Culturally Responsive Teaching in College (Wlodkowski & Ginsberg, 2009).  I had the great fortune to work with Dr. Ginsberg to apply the framework for engendering competence among struggling, underserved students as a Washington Reading Corps and America Vista volunteer.  I also was inspired by the well-balanced individual learner approach provided by the American Association of Colleges and Universities.  Many of my efforts have been guided by the open-ended rubric and template approach to creating structured learning opportunities with consistency.  Finally, as an artist and life-long learner, I wanted to make sure there was room for the arts in the assessment process.  I believe it is important to measure what the individual learned over the course of the semester and document it, not simply measure whether they learned what I had hoped or intended.  Students come from a wide-variety of expectations, adaptabilities, and knowledge bases that can be neutralized through careful assessment design.

I will walk you through my assessment process below:

Let’s get serious about understanding learning outcomes:

In the Fall of 2013 the City University of New York began the Pathways Initiative which lays out various learning outcomes for student assessment.  While many people have just as many or more opinions about the process or outcomes themselves I find this is a sufficient place to start the conversation about what it means to teach and to learn.  CUNY believes that all students enrolled in flexible common core courses should be able to:

  • Gather, interpret, and assess information from a variety of sources and points of view.
  • Evaluate evidence and arguments critically or analytically.
  • Produce well-reasoned written or oral arguments using evidence to support conclusions.

The first outcome involves my choice of required materials.

Assessment for Curriculum Redesign & Student Development

1. Introduction

Overview (Snapshot):

Education for What?:

Course Description:

Course Design:

2. Redesign Process Visual

3. Action Research Model

4. Enhancing Motivation & Learning

5. Analyzing Student Work

6. Looking at your Syllabus to enhance motivation

KCC Basic Syllabus Template

The requirements for a syllabus may vary from institution to institution but at KCC we are asked to provide the following:

provost syllabus requirements

Measuring Reflection through dialogue and feedback (Shadowing students):

We all know the saying “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” but how do we apply that to teaching and learning?
Schontasha Dyce

Over the last few months, working with The Bridge cultures to Form a Nation Program has been the most productive and electrifying experience. Embracing the position of Global Leadership in Environmental Advocacy while discovering knowledge in ecological and environmental issues over these months has led me to distinguish that as an individual I have become more aware of my leadership qualities and in doing so I have recognized that we: as a nation, as communities, as families and as individuals, collectively we have all neglected the most simplistic and important part of our being, and to preserve the “ATMOSPHERE” for ourselves and future generation.

        The other day I read a quote, and in my opinion it’s perfect for this occasion, it stated: “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” – Oscar Wilde. Thinking of this quote is just like discussing our environment and how hard it really is to get points across with so much skepticism in many science communities along with the thousands of people who have no clue that global warming is taking place, climate changes has increased and that pollution seems to be rising and creating more and more health risks. I have focused a great deal on pollution, and in my reflection I feel it is imperative to share what I have come across. Pollution has a very detrimental effect on humans and some causes of this pollution are “The Plastic Problem” in the environment. As well as the burning of plastic, this is known to emit dioxins-dangerous chemicals- into the atmosphere.

        As I have stated before in my research, Plastic trash is polluting our oceans and washing up on our beaches all around the world. Our Pacific ocean is filled with tons of plastic floating in the US and Japan, killing mammals and birds.  We’re all aware that plastic has many faults, including the way its production and disposal raises resource issues and lets off extremely negative environmental impacts. From my research, it is estimated that 7% of the world’s annual oil production is used to produce and manufacture plastic. Plastic that is typically made from petroleum. This oil consumption is way more than the oil consumed by the entire African continent. Plastics carbon footprint includes landfilling and incineration, and recycling rate is dismally low around the globe. The burning of plastic is another cause for the release of emit dioxide.  Even when incineration plants are legally required to filter emissions, pollution control equipment can remove some but not all the toxic ashes. The two chemicals, phthalates and bisphenol A, have been scrutinized as recent possible environment toxins, carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.

However, the first knowledgeable solution I’ve researched is Akinori Ito who has proposed a solution or alternative with his inventing of the converting plastic to oil machine.  He is a common believer that plastic has a higher energy value than anything else. Akinori is a part of a Japanese company called Blest, and also who created a small, very safe machine that can convert several types of plastic back into oil. Even though Japan has improved its “effective utilization” rate was 72% in 2006 which leaves 28% of plastic to still be buried in land filling and burning.  From my research and according to Plastic Waste Management Institute data, that utilization rate includes not just 20% that is actually being recycled but also 52% that is being incinerated for energy recovery purpose: such as generating heat and electric power. Summing up the evitable that not enough recycling is going on to save our environment. Our environment that is significant to our survival and future.

Akinori conversion machine is very safe because it used a temperature controlling electric heater rather than flame. These machines are able to process polyethylene, polystyrene and polypropylene but not PET bottles. The results are a crude gas that can fuel things like generators or stoves and once broken down can be pumped into cars, boats or a motorbike. One kilogram of plastic produce almost one liter of oil.  “If we burn the plastic, we generate toxins and a large amount of CO2. If we convert it into oil, we save CO2 and at the same time increase people’s awareness about the value of plastic garbage.” Say’s Akinori. Akinori was very passionate about his machine and its educational process. He has taking it on planes and to school to help inform others like students, teachers and so on about the importance of plastic, recycling, and this machine. Spreading the Japanese idea of mottainai, the idea that waste is sad and regrettable.

As a final point, emboding Global Leadership in Environmental Advocacy has helped me to contribute to the knowledge of all those whom I come across. One thing I have realized in my time of observing however is that people in general have to change their way of thinking. Starting with recycling plastic, cans and glass. If we change or alter the way we think about our environment and those toxic things that impact the atmosphere, then I hope it can help us transition to a life that is more in tune with the planet and the realities ahead.

Mark-ford Lombo
I have developed a philanthropic mantra which I often quote from time to time,and it goes “ Communication is the key to Coexistence”. If there is a lack of communication or no communication at all, confusion will arise amongst individuals and chaos will spread like a fire in a field of grass. Throughout my experience working with different groups of people within different communities I have noticed that complications occur due to lack of communication. There might have been linguistic differences, or poor choices in words, however if the ideas that we are trying to convey are not received with full comprehension all parties within the communication process can be misunderstood. However Before we journey down the complexities of language barriers or communication skills, I believe that getting a multitude of people in one space is a burdensome task along with getting those individual’s ideas expressed and heard is seemingly impossible.
Democratic thinking the thought process which the ideologies of individuals are inclusive in order to come to a decision for a multitude makes it possible to allow everyones ideas to be acknowledged.To simply say, when living in a community and everyone must come final decisions that will affect everyone who is a part of the community there must be a representation of everyones ideas.The term Democracy originates from the Greek “rule of the people”. Democracy is a form of government in which all eligible citizens participate equally, either directly or indirectly through elected representatives, in the proposal, development, and creation of laws. It encompasses social, religious, cultural, ethnic and racial equality, justice, liberty and fraternity. while working alongside students of other diverse backgrounds how we have formed decisions or come to common understandings a vote based on our ideologies has been the most effective way formulate agreements which satisfy all interests. Although it is a long tedious but intimate process it equally represents all ideas. When people will not eat certain foods based on their obligations to their religious beliefs, it is necessary to acknowledge those circumstances. When other people behave a certain way based on their social norms because there cultural traditions are different, it is necessary to acknowledge those circumstances.
When you are in an environment, there is more than a one person, that environment can be considered diverse. Individual people have their own perception, when you have to collaborate with someone with a different perspective than your own diversification has occurred. Free agency or as us Americans refer to “liberty” grants us the right to choose what ideologies we wish to follow. If it is essential to democratic thinking to acknowledge all ideas of individuals amongst the community than we must accept diversification. Diversity also increases the validity of making rational decisions because there are ideas and thoughts coming from all different possible angles. When making critical decisions it is best to analyze the situation from all different angles. Finally we can return to communication now that I have briefly analyzed “Democratic thinking” and “Diversity”.
In the word communication you can see the word community. In order to coexist in a community communication is essential. However we must first think democratically to allow everyone to share their ideas. To understand that there is a possibility which everyone has an individual way of thinking diversification must be acknowledged. Communities reflect the different ideologies and diverse natures of the people who inhabit those communities. Weather it be the different restaurants that you want to eat at, or the different architecture of the homes you see. In conclusion my experiences in working within different communities have molded me to be democratic, diverse and whether I choose to act that way or not If I want to be apart of any community I will have to be democratic and diverse.
Eram Jabeen
Growing up life has always been a like a race. Like most of the world I often rushed in my daily routine, going to school because I had to and then when old enough, raced to get a job that paid the bills, because I had to. Although I always loved to learn, the pedagogy in the public schools I went to was boring to me. I wanted to explore the way that was best for me to learn perhaps by being more involved in this big world that little me lived in. I just handed my teachers the strict structured homework that was asked, without truly learning the way I ‘d like to in depth. I would often try to explore all aspects of a simple project before I handed it in the structured way my teacher wanted it. I also never felt like anything made much sense until I took time to really sense the world I live in. “Sustainability” is a term often used carelessly, but when I sense the environment I live in I believe there is no better solution to care for it than a sustainable one.
        I have been introduced to great opportunities this semester at Kingsborough Community College with my professor, great students, and other peers. The way I am being challenged to think creatively, take action to help, push myself to gain knowledge; that I never had, and be civically involved with actions that help the world and population is the best foundation of my idea of a very sustainable future. I am currently honored to be involved in exploring the idea of a possible career of Environmental and Sustainable Engineering with the support and guidance from my professor.  I am working and exploring skills I never thought I could comprehend, such as Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop (to create flyers for events at our school). I am getting familiar with other computer programs such as SketchUp and InDesign as well and I am always seeking for advancement in my knowledge by networking with other students whom are graphic design, art, photography, computer science and etc. majors. I am learning that by the use of technology one can create meaningful change for a democratic greener environment for our diverse community.  I am also very proud to be a part of the Law, Society and Justice club as a Treasurer because we are building change with technology by building a website to share our researches and work on Digication. The Law, Society and Justice Club and our members have given me a great opportunity to network and be involved in democratic actions and I learn a lot from them and our diversity.
In addition I am happy to be involved with my professor and peers for a Proposal for Eco-Park Design for Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge bird sanctuary and I am excited for the upcoming projects such as a mobile butterfly garden exhibit, and urban farm designs for Hofstra University, PS 126 and PS 202. I do have a long way to go in gaining the knowledge but I am very ambitious to learn because I feel like this the true meaning of caring for the world, the diversity of people in it with their different cultures. This field of sustainable engineering will not just stop at just it’s job description for me but to me it’s important take action globally and locally in our closest communities because I believe that building green is the future. From a little girl who rushed, took life is as race, moving too fast for possible act of caring for earth, to making change breaking from procrastination, to taking action now by simply changing from buying Fiji Water Bottles everyday to a single Filtered bottle equaling to 300 water bottles, I am grateful for these involvements because I am an addition to one more promising individual with purpose to help my Earth and those in it.

Anthony Chatman


        Community is a small group of people in your area of where you live. When I think of community I think of the people that I live with and the people that surround the area that I live in. For instance, in my community which is East New York I’ve been scoping out the different services that will be able to help people be more aware about where they can get necessary information. With using the program Adobe Premiere Pro I’ve been able to edit videos by self-educating myself so that I can make something that’s creative and also in the process learn something I’ve never truly been good at or thought I could do before. Before the editing process can actually begin I used a camera and filmed different sorts of things one of which was the urban farm in East New York and through the lens of the camera I’m able to see other things that I never would have known was there. The camera is an extra set of eyes that can bring something to life. I feel I’ve been doing that throughout my work with editing since bringing awareness to my community about how using food stamps at farmers markets will be beneficial to the people since once the workshop that I’ll be able to share with them in my community at the local public library will bring them together and then they will have the necessary information on where they can get everything they need if they feel the information given is compelling enough for them to check out even further. Through a community we will be able to grow together and with the work I’m doing currently it’s been quite a journey to be able to share this with just my peers but with everyone else it will be a start to making a difference in my community.
        In addition, democratic thinking to me would have to be the words you use to cipher to convey a point that you’re trying to make. Without talking it out then there can be nothing that can be shared and then it wouldn’t bring out the best of what everyone is trying to do. Since my projects are all technologically based and deal with video editing there is going to be a need to think about and talk about what can actually be done to make this effective and presentable as possible.  For the larger scope for my editing process to go along smoothly I needed to actually share what I was working on whether it would be if I thought a transition needed to go in a certain spot or if I needed to delete some footage that was too much. It’s a matter of team building and democratic thinking worked best for me while during this editing process since I had peers that were able to be there and give astounding feedback which was intriguing and helpful. I learned more and more and didn’t stop until I got it. That’s the best part about learning how to use a program you never knew how to use before but through democratic thinking I was able to put it all together and I was able to reach my full potential no matter how long it took. Just learning about it in general made it more fun because it was such a riveting feeling once after I was able to figure it out I felt so proud of myself because it was my work and I did such an effective job on it.
        Difference can mean a variety of things. When I think of difference I think of everyone is not the same and we all have our own stories and come from a different backgrounds. Our viewpoints may not be the same but that’s good because if everyone was the same and had the same idea then there wouldn’t be any room for there to be any opposing views and different perspectives on certain topics. East New York is different from places that are in Manhattan. There’s more development there than there is in my neighborhood and I just want what’s best for my community to it can also grow as well. The video editing projects display that there could be more development and with the right amount of capacity and dedication I’ll be able to achieve what I would hope to be a more modernly colonized living environment. Editing allows me to show the difference and bring up alternate ways so that in the end I’ll be able to have a solution to what can we do to establish consistent equal resources to everyone. Being able to edit videos has taught me that I can create something that can show other people that there can be an equality of living among everyone and that bringing this to their attention will allow them to actually be more aware of what can actually be beneficial to them. Other areas have quality access to a number of resources and though they can be compared differently to the neighborhood I’m currently living in, there can be a means to take a stand and let people know that it is possible to do this where ever your residing from. Getting the information through the proper network and proper outlet is the basis of what will need to be done to make it all become noticeable and remarkably coherent.
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