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The results show how the teacher is constantly struggling to find an adequate way of using the portfolio while a multitude of options is available and difficult decisions have to be made Ballweg a: Chap. Moreover, the data show in detail which prerequisites make portfolio work positive and useful to learners and to the teacher Ballweg a: Chap. The teacher was an experienced teacher for German as a Foreign Language. She had heard and read about portfolios and worked with checklists from the European Language Portfolio before.
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In the semester before the study was conducted, she had tried to introduce portfolio work into a course with the same title. Still, she considered herself a novice in using portfolios in the classroom.
The students were asked to keep a portfolio with several drafts of texts. Apart from three shorter texts of only one paragraph, the students were asked to write a summary, a discussion essay, a further essay, a CV and a cover letter for a job application. At the beginning of the semester, the teacher had intended to give more writing assignments but as portfolio work proved to be time-consuming, she refrained from this. Classes were used to give input on how to write a good text and to prepare for the writing assignments.
The texts were written as homework and discussed with the peers in the session that followed. Two of the texts had to be handed in via e-mail for feedback but the teacher encouraged the students to hand in more than two texts so that she could better support the students. However, only one student made use of this opportunity. The others sent in two texts or even fewer. She offered them information on the structure of texts as well as on strategies for planning, writing and revising texts. She did so by discussing these aspects in class and working with sample texts from the students.
Moreover, she used peer feedback to encourage students to reflect on text quality in general and especially on the quality of their texts by applying the criteria discussed to the texts of their peers and to their own texts. The teacher gave several suggestions on what to include in the learning log but did not give any guidelines. So in most cases they consisted of notes on the content of each class and a list of vocabulary. The teacher encouraged them to include material from other language or engineering classes if they considered them useful to demonstrate their writing skills in that semester.
For this reason, the portfolios that the students submitted for grading at the end of the semester differed significantly in length. In addition to the weekly classes, the teacher held a portfolio conference with groups of two to four students at the weekend before the last session in class.
While portfolio conferences can have a wide range of foci, for this specific conference, the teacher asked the students to prepare general questions on the organization of their portfolios and to present their most recent versions of them. In most cases, the students took turns reporting on their work with the teacher giving feedback to each of them while the others were listening.
Only in one group, the students started discussing their portfolios and their questions with each other. Whereas previous research on writing portfolios placed a strong emphasis on the effect of portfolio use on writing proficiency e. More specifically, the following questions will be addressed:. How does the teacher use the portfolio to promote and assess writing skills?
How is the portfolio used and perceived as an assessment tool? As the research questions indicate, the study aims at an in-depth exploration of portfolio-based writing instruction over the course of nine weeks. The result is not the presentation of causal connections but rather the identification of patterns in the data that allow an understanding of a phenomenon on a more abstract level. For the generation of data 3 , the lessons and the portfolio conferences were audio-taped.
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The core of the 25 hours of audio-taped and transcribed data, however, was formed by four interviews with the teacher and three interviews with each of the seven students participating, which were conducted over the course of one semester. Four of them were enrolled in degree programmes in engineering, three were exchange students in the same field.
Four of them were female, three were male. The time they had already spent in Germany ranged from one month to two years at the start of the semester. After transcription, the data were coded in accordance with Grounded Theory. This step was followed by focused coding.
Focused coding is used to bundle codes into categories. Hints to what aspect might be relevant are, among others,. The second step of data interpretation in accordance with Grounded Theory is axial coding. Here, the data are taken to a further level of abstraction. Data that have been segmented during the phase of the open coding are put together again. In the case of the study at hand, data from the portfolio conferences were added. In this manner, all facets of a phenomenon as well as its conditions and influences can be reconstructed.
The data in this study were coded and interpreted as described above to answer the research questions and to shed some light on the way the teacher used the portfolio in the writing classroom 5. The findings can best be summarized by the term of a gain-loss effect 5. However, it can be anticipated that the results of this case study are of a high explanatory value and can be used as a starting point for further research. The teacher explained that she aimed to prepare students with a proficiency level in German of B1 to B2 according to the CEFR for academic writing, teaching them the features of different text types and helping them to understand their own writing process UB 1, 28—48 5.
In the second interview in the middle of the semester, she stated that through teaching this class, she would gain experience that would be necessary to use portfolios reasonably in the following semesters. She considered herself a novice in using portfolios and felt she was struggling to introduce the tool into her teaching, which showed in different ways in the data. How a novice perceives portfolio work is closely related to the category of insecurity, which served as one of the head categories under which several other categories were subsumed during axial coding.
In this manner, the quality and context of the insecurity could be described in more detail: Elements of insecurity, doubts and fears showed and were explicitly mentioned at several points in all of the interviews with the teacher so that it can be understood that her insecurity was not an initial one that was caused by the confrontation with a new challenge but was present all the time.
For this reason, she introduced the portfolio with all possible functions at once, namely as a tool for reflection, self-assessment, personal development, learning, documentation, consultation and promotion of writing skills. Furthermore, she explained that it could replace a textbook, would help her to give the students feedback on their texts and that it could be used for assessment Ballweg a: Her actions were guided by the general idea that portfolios, learner autonomy and individualized learning are positive but she did not have more profound knowledge on how to adapt these broad concepts to her teaching.
Expecting students to become autonomous, to reflect their learning and writing processes and to adapt the portfolio to their needs may have been too ambitious an endeavour on both sides that most likely was to be disappointed. The portfolio was used for several purposes and, with this multitude of options, was eventually reduced to its very basic function, namely arranging the texts. Helping students to arrange the portfolio also became the major focus of the portfolio conference and of the last classes. Encouraged by what she had found out about the opportunities writing portfolios can offer, the teacher placed a strong emphasis on cognitive and metacognitive aspects of writing and aimed at teaching knowledge about texts, for example, about the structure of texts and the features of different text types.
This focus made students aware of their writing process and induced them to reflect on writing strategies and text quality and to use peer feedback to stress the writer-reader relationship. In general, portfolios in L2 writing instruction offer a multitude of opportunities that cannot all be used at the same time. Therefore, teachers have to make many decisions as to both the focus of their teaching of writing and the use of the portfolio.
The necessity to make decisions can reveal insecurities, incongruities and a lack of knowledge on the part of teachers that had previously existed but were only revealed through portfolio work. Instead of making decisions based on instinct, teachers have to set priorities, to consider the multiple aspects of writing and portfolio use as illustrated in Fig.
As the students had initially expected a stronger focus on writing in this class, some of them were disappointed and did not find the class and the portfolio useful. Instead of perceiving the portfolio as a tool to promote their writing skills, these students experienced it as separate from their learning. Other students were more interested in, or at least open to, learning more about text structures and specific features of text types.
This was the case when they acknowledged that they would benefit from the emphasis on metacognitive learning e. Later, a change towards a more positive stance was observed in some students: They acknowledged that the display of their achievements in the portfolio made them feel better about their writing skills but they still had the feeling that the portfolio did not help them to learn German or to improve their writing skills.
Their own experiences might be more likely to lead to changes in their perception of the usefulness of portfolio work. Portfolio-based assessment also caused a wide range of reactions among the students. There are at least two possible interpretations of this phenomenon: Either her insecurity concerning the portfolio led to insecurity in assessment or else an already existing insecurity concerning the assessment of texts was revealed through the use of the portfolio and the necessity of revealing criteria for assessment. Unfortunately, the data do not allow concluding statements on this aspect.
Another relevant result of the study refers to the affective dimension of portfolio-based assessment. With feelings of insecurity, pride, dislike of the portfolio and fear of unfair assessment as explained above, the affective dimension proves to be important in the understanding of portfolio work. In assessment, there is an additional aspect to be considered: As has been stated previously, the new opportunities that portfolio-based assessment offers and the holistic view of learners mean that the focus of assessment shifts from the learning outcome to the learner see Section 3.
In this specific class, personal reflections and a learning log were included in the portfolio. The example of one student, Atena, shows how this can lead to feelings of vulnerability:. It seems that the personalization and individualization of writing classes through the use of portfolios collides with traditional ideas of assessment in the institutional set-up at a university.
They stressed that peer feedback was introduced at the expense of corrections by the teacher, work on language was replaced by reflection, writing activities were cut back for organizational matters, and considering additional aspects in a more holistic approach to assessment led to a devaluation of the importance of text quality.
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To concede that this is also true for the use of writing portfolios is an important basis for the development of suitable, context-specific portfolio concepts. The results of this study highlight the gain-loss effect of portfolio use but should not be reduced to it.
The results explain how the complexity of the portfolio idea forces teachers to make choices on what to add to teaching and what to exclude and how learners perceive these choices as both gains and losses. The teacher in this study had to make numerous difficult decisions as she was confronted with the complex task of including writing portfolios in her teaching, which entails challenges as well as opportunities. She tried to introduce all possible functions at once in order to achieve a maximum benefit for the learners.
This again was challenging and time-consuming for her and for her learners, so much so that the learners were under the impression that they had to give up many aspects of learning that were important to them, and they did not appreciate the additional opportunities offered by the use of a writing portfolio. If they could be convinced, this was rather due to the actual experience of using the portfolio. One way of dealing with this dilemma is to consider the genuine benefit of introducing portfolio-related activities in relation to the loss that this involves in other areas.
It is not a matter of introducing a portfolio with all aspects or not using it at all. Rather, teachers and decision-makers have to analyse the learning needs of each group of learners and the benefit each new element could bring. A matrix for analysing the prerequisites of portfolio use can be based on the model of positive influences of portfolio use Ballweg a: , which comprises criteria in four different fields:. The development of a suitable portfolio concept is extremely challenging for teachers as they have to be able to analyse all possible influences and they have to know all options of portfolio use and writing instruction well enough to make informed decisions.
To be able to do so, it is necessary to prepare teachers for portfolio use and to support them in the process. Aziz, Liliane J. University of San Francisco.
Ball, Arnetha F. History, Society, School, Individual, Text. New York, London: Erlbaum, — Ballweg, Sandra, a: Portfolioarbeit im Fremdsprachenunterricht. Mehr Sprache n lehren. Aachen: Shaker, 73— Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, — Berlin: Cornelsen-Scriptor. Bonzo, Joshua D. University of Texas, Austin, Texas. Frankfurt a. Theorie und Praxis im Spiegel des Konstruktivismus. Bruffee, Kenneth A. Grounded Theory research: Methods and practices. Los Angeles, CA u. Calfee, Robert C. Research, Theory, and Practice. Old, new, borrowed, blue.
Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 3— Charmaz, Kathy, Constructing Grounded Theory. A Practical Guide through Qualitative Analysis. London u. Conacher, Jean E. Towards a broader understanding of new language-learning environments. Moving beyond the Classroom? Developing learner responsibility. Delett, Jennifer S. Fix, Martin, Texte schreiben.