This portfolio narrative involves these personas:
- Morris, new tenure-track instructor in Theater and Dance
- Robert, an adult student pursuing a second bachelor's degree
- Fatik, a first-year undeclared-major
For his sophomore course, Introduction to Theatrical Scene Design, Morris guides his students through the basics of drafting and visual arts into their first attempts at set and costume design and, if possible, construction. His job consists largely of holding them in check while they master perspective, proportion, and line, as they are eager to skip the fundamentals and plunge in to real staging.
During the first week of class, he leads the class through a preliminary design exercise-- sketching a common cover page for their course portfolios. Morris has already explained to his students that they will assemble an electronic portfolio of drawings and designs throughout the course, to document their learning. He uses the cover-page exercise to probe the components of design, examining what makes some layouts, colors, and text fonts look better than others and how they interact. He asks the students to include the course title, term date, links to the handful of portfolio components, and some images, along with some contemporary reference (so that the cover page is fresh every term) and lets them take it from there. The sessions are lively, with students shouting out ideas while he and an assistant both write them down and sketch the design using an application such as Microsoft Paint; he's still looking for the best method. Universal participation is important, and he calls on quiet students to make sure that all contribute some thoughts. He doesn't emphasize the fact that he will return to this exercise during the second half of the course and ask for improvements, as he expects the first draft to be too cluttered and garish.
Among the early exercises that he assigns are a production poster collection, annotated with student reflections that associate posters with others to illustrate some thesis or theme. Fatik immediately finds an online collection that provides rich materials, emphasizing Asian movies, and inserts some URIs into his files. Robert takes a digital picture of a beloved poster from a production of "Hedda Gabler" that he has saved from college, and uploads that, along with other image files that he saves from web pages. For another assignment, Morris directs the students outside of campus to find instances of the Golden Rectangle. Robert looks around town, and finds a couple of examples, which he captures with his camera phone. Fatik forgets the assignment until the previous class period and hastily looks at web pages on a computer. He quickly finds a few because he searches on "Golden Rectangle in Architecture."
The students bring their work to class for sharing. Morris realizes that he needs to guide the assignments, to encourage more engaged personal involvement and less haphazard web search. Since this is the first time that he's taught this course, Morris doesn't have all of the topics and activities nailed down yet, so the student portfolio is under construction. The students are already collecting work in folders and files. He knows that he could easily bite off more than he and the class can chew, but he'd like to bring in some consideration of stagecraft and lighting design (taught in other courses). Furthermore, he contemplates the integration of automated and animated computer design into his course, and is looking for the best way to do so, including some assignment that will fit into the course portfolio.
Morris does have an overall plan. Virtually every learning activity will be discussed in class, and will also end up in the individual student portfolio. Each assignment and activity will receive a grade and feedback, with student reflection and synthesis also required at several points. The final grade depends heavily on his summative assessment of the portfolio's demonstration of increased student sophistication. Morris's fundamental pedagogical goal is fostering an appreciation of basic skills, preparation, and restraint in successful design. And he doesn't want this to be told to the class overtly, he wants it to emerge.