Each portfolio will include an extensive reflective overview. This piece of writing will be perhaps the most important piece in your portfolio (no kidding!), because it will help readers understand how your portfolio represents your performance--your learning--for the period of time represented by the portfolio. Another way to think of the overview is that it is trying to help me evaluate your performance for the portfolio.

If you think of the overview in these ways--as a guide to your portfolio; as an explanation of your learning; as helping others evaluate your performance--you will recognize that it has to be clear, fully fully developed, and representative of a formal piece of college writing (or professional's writing).

Here are some ways that Reflective Overviews are often less than effective:

  1. --They don't work as guides or lead readers through the portfolio materials, or they leave out parts of the portfolio. In other words, they assume a reader will find all the stuff, in the right order. This is a simple problem to avoid: have others read your overview to see if they can follow your guiding.
  2. --Related to the first, but often a really regular problem: Writers don't explain why they included materials in their portfolio; writers don't explain the significance of the materials, how they show a particular kind of learning or accomplishment, how they are representative of the writer's having fulfilled the goals of the assignment. This needs explanation. You don't want your readers to have to keep asking "so what?"; you don't want readers trying to decide why you included something and what it is supposed to represent. More specifically, too, you can't assume that a general comment such as "I included my drafts to show my revision" will be very useful. What about your drafts should the reader focus on? What parts of the draft do you want to highlight for readers? What kinds of revisions are represented in your drafts. In other words, elaborate, and be specific.
  3. --Often writers wait till the last minute to produce the Reflective Overview, and even if they do manage to provide some substantial content, the piece is not proofread; it doesn't represent the kind of "care" that a reader might expect for a piece that is leading an evaluator through the portfolio.

Assignments and Evaluation