Wednesday, May 25, 2016

My Take on the Final Exam Portfolio~~Guest Post


If you are relatively new to the TWU SLIS program, you may not even realize you are required to complete a final exam to receive your MLS.  Surprise, surprise!  Lucky you, welcome to the land of ambiguity and fingernail biting…but it doesn’t have to be that way.

In Blackboard, under My Organizations>>SLIS Student Resources, there is a folder called Final Exam Portfolio.  In its many sub-folders there are instructions, Q&A, and other information.

Some semesters, the Final Exam Committee offers a BB Collaborate informational session.  If the session is not offered, I suggest emailing one of the committee members for their slideshow or hints and tips.  Last year, I could not log into the correct session and missed it.  The session was not archived, either.  I emailed Dr. Perryman and she gladly gave me the slides.

Her two biggest take-away from the slides were to be succinct and to use the rubric elements as sub-headings.  Using the sub-headings allows the grader to easily see if you have addressed the rubric line item.  It also allows you to organize your thoughts logically.  Being succinct is more challenging.  I was as to the point and brief as possible, yet I had 20 pages total not including resources by the time I was finished. 

Planning for the FEP is essential.  The final exam is offered ONLY in the long semesters, NOT in summer.  Therefore, if you are graduating in August, you will need to plan to have your FEP turned in the spring prior.  In a way, this is advantageous for you.  I highly recommend that you use the breaks, whether summer or Christmas, to fully complete your FEP so that once the window opens, you only need to submit it.  This will allow you to focus on the classes you are taking without the stress of the final exam.  The submission window is only open about 20-30 days.  If you wait until the window opens to start the FEP, you will be in a world of hurt.

The FEP is in two parts:  your professional development plan and your work products essay.  Each of these sections is submitted separately, as is each of the three work products.  When working ahead, do not make the mistake, like I did, of collating all materials, including embedding my work products, into one report.  While I thought this was a more presentable approach, it will not work with the Blackboard submission system. 

Start planning now for which work products you want to submit.  Each of the three must be from different classes and each must express different competencies.  If your instructor tells you you have done an excellent job on a specific project or ‘highly recommends’ for you to include it, follow that lead.  If you’re unsure, ask that professor what they think about including it in the portfolio.  

While you can use one group project, I avoided this. For one, the other student had graduated and the link to the Web 2.0 tool we used was broken.  He created the user name and password for the account we used, so I was stuck.  Permission was not an issue for us, as we had previously agreed that its inclusion in FEPs was okay.  Also, upon reflection, I could not effectively link the parts of the project that I worked on to the competencies I wanted to cover.  With all these challenges, it simply was not worth my time to fret over it.  

Your professional development portion of the FEP is basically your five year plan.  What you want to be doing upon graduation and beyond, and how you are going to get there.  This is actually a really great exploration tool into what’s available for continuing education, job opportunities, and to visualize how you want to ‘do’ librarianship.  For a final reflection in another class, I started squirrelling away various pieces of information which I could also incorporate into the FEP professional development piece.  

Another interesting factor is that CMS is the required citation style for the FEP.  All previous classes I had taken at TWU required APA or MLS.  Having never used Chicago before, I immediately bookmarked Purdue’s OWL for CMS.  Don’t be confused, because the three work products you include in that portion of the FEP do NOT need to be changed.  They should remain in whichever citation style you used originally.

There is no need to be intimidated or fear the final exam portfolio.  The skills that you have been using during the entire degree program, planning, research, and writing, are all that are needed here.  Time management should be your only eyebrow lifter.  That can easily be vanquished by using the off-season well.  

Christine De Angelis was awarded the 2016 TWU College of Professional Education Student Award for Outstanding Student Service in SLIS for her time as President of GLISA.

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