MODULE 9 – Synthesis – (MAR 4 – 17)
In this two-week-long module, you will work on your ‘Synthesis’ essay, which we hope will help you bring all of your experiences throughout your master’s program together in an engaging way. For us, it’s a way to examine what you got out of your program, and it serves the purpose of a “final exam” or paper.
We also have a few other housekeeping assignments to take care of in this module. While your focus for the next two weeks should be primarily on your Synthesis essay, we also ask you to spend some of your time in the first week reflecting on your Mid-Semester Feedback and scheduling your end-of-semester exhibition.
1️⃣ 📌 Review last week's feedback
2️⃣ 📌 Mid-Semester Feedback, read & reflect - DUE MARCH 10TH
- Read your Mid-Semester Feedback – Go to D2L and read over the feedback we left you on your portfolio. You should not only be able to see the markings in the rubric but also the narrative comments your instructor left. If you aren’t able to see the written comments (which we promise are there), we have more instructions here. As you read over these written comments, please keep an eye out for the “Secret Word” that we’ll include after the last written comment.
- Process and Reflect – Spend some time thinking about the feedback you received from the instructors. Compare and contrast it with the feedback you’ve been receiving from your peers since the beginning of the course. Does everything make sense? Do you have questions? How would you like to move forward?
- Post a Video Reflection – Go to this Flipgrid and post about what you learned from mid-semester feedback, what you plan to change about your portfolio as a result, and any questions you may have. Please mention the “Secret Word” included in your feedback in your Flipgrid video; this confirms for us that you were able to see the comments.
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO PROVIDE FEEDBACK TO OTHER STUDENTS ON THEIR REFLECTION.
3️⃣ 📌 Exhibition signups - DUE MARCH 10TH
- PLEASE NOTE – The Google Doc for signups will not be open until the start of the module. We will send an email when it is available.
- HOW TO SIGN UP – Once signups are open, go to this Google Doc and follow the directions and example there to sign up for your exhibition time slot.
4️⃣ 📌 Things to keep in mind for your Synthesis essay
- Scope – While we describe this assignment as an essay, it’s really more than that. We ask you to create a 2000-word equivalent of a comprehensive exam or a thesis in other master’s programs. This is your chance to show us that this program taught you something and changed who you are, so having clear and specific evidence of that will be very helpful!
- The Rubric – Make sure that you align your synthesis essay to our standards, rubric, and common issues for synthesis essays. These are always available at the bottom of every assignment page under “Elaboration”.
- A Work in Progress – You do not have to finalize your essay now, as the goal in this course is always to get something working first, and continue to refine it based on feedback.
- Need Inspiration? – Consider a few examples of synthesis essays from past semesters, including: Becca Dymond, Rebecca Wolf, Karly Vance, and Chrissy Chavez.
5️⃣ 📌 Compose your Synthesis essay
- How has the Program Changed You? – Your essay should address your experience in this program. How did the program change the way you approach your job? How did individual classes change the way you see your responsibilities? It may be helpful to look over the work you’ve completed in previous modules of this course, since so much of it is related to your master’s experience.
- Identify Three Specific Courses that Have Impacted you – In discussing how the program and courses have changed you, make sure you discuss in detail how at least three courses affected your thinking and practice.
- Make it Engaging – Don’t let the administrative aspect of this task keep you from writing a creative, thoughtful, engaging essay—one that your intended audience might find fascinating to read and to discuss with you. Consider how you might use multimedia (pictures, font colors, etc.) effectively on this page to help break up or re-inforce the 2000 words you will write.
6️⃣ 📌 Video reflection and feedback - DUE MARCH 17th
7️⃣ 📌 Reminder - your 3rd Piece of Flair is due by Module 11
☑️ Standards, rubric, and common issues for Synthesis essays
As you design your Synthesis Essay, please use the following standards to guide your work. These represent the particular criteria that your instructors will be looking for and giving you feedback on at mid-semester feedback and final grading. For each of the following five design criteria, your instructors will rate your design as “best” (fully meeting the criteria), “needs work” (partially meeting the criteria), or “poor” (not meeting the criteria):
- Title – Does your essay have an expressive title?
- Quality of Text (or Other Multimedia) – Do you use text accurately and effectively? If you use images and other media, do you also use them accurately and effectively?
- Discussion of Individual Courses – Does your essay discuss in detail how three courses affected your thinking and practice?
- Synthesis of Master’s Program Experience – Does your essay discuss how the master’s program as a whole affected your thinking and practice?
- Word Length – Is your essay about 2000 words? As with the other written assignments, this is a target word count; a maximum and a minimum, if you like. While you don’t have to be right on, please do be as close as possible.
- Jargon and Acronyms – Remember that people outside your program or workplace might not understand all the terms and acronyms you use. It’s always a good idea to “spell out” an acronym (like MAET or MAED) the first time you use it, and you should also consider defining terms that aren’t commonly used.
- Balance of the General and the Specific – Make sure to include some insights from both your individual classes and the program as a whole.
- Add a Link to a PDF – Think about adding a link to a PDF copy on this page so that viewers have the opportunity to read your essay in an alternative format (and this makes for easier printing if someone wanted to print your essay).
- Avoid PDF-only access – An additional link to a PDF is great, but it cannot replace a web-page version of your essay. If you’re going to do one format, put your essay on a webpage. If you want to go that extra step, add an additional option for a PDF (not a replacement for a webpage).
Each assignment in this course is important for developing your abilities to design and implement your portfolio. There are 100 total points assigned in this course; the specific assignments in this module will count towards your grade as follows:
- (Up to 1 point) – Posting a video reflection about your mid-semester feedback
- (Up to 1 point) – Scheduling your exhibition on time and with your complete information.
- (Up to 1 point) – Creating a Synthesis Essay and posting the link in Flipgrid on your video reflection.
(Coming up) – You have to complete a Tech Check sometime before the end of Module 10. This requirement is worth 2 points and is explained in “Elaboration” below.
(Coming up) – The quality of your video reflections and video feedback in this module will be self-assessed (with some guidance) in Module 11. There, you will give yourself between 0 and 5 points for your efforts across Modules 6 through 11.
🔍 All about Mid-Semester Feedback
In the Capstone Course, we believe in the power of peer feedback. Reynolds (2009) argued that students’ peers are capable of pointing out things that would have never occurred to their instructors, and we’ve repeatedly found that to be true as we’ve taught this class! However, we also know that the opposite is true: While we do our best to make our expectations and grading process clear to everyone during peer feedback, we also know that sometimes there’s no substitute for having the instructor look over your work. We’ve done our best to follow your progress thus far in the course, but mid-semester feedback is our time to give you some more thorough feedback.
Starting in Module 7, we will go through your whole portfolio, evaluate the pages according to the descriptions and rubrics that we’ve shared with you, and give you detailed feedback on every page up through the Showcase. If possible, we’ll also look over anything else you’ve completed by the time we get to your portfolio. You will not receive a grade based off of your mid-semester feedback. This is formative assessment. As we explained at the beginning of the semester, we believe strongly that this course should be about starting with just “something” and improving it as you go along, and we feel that grading your work at this stage of the course would contradict that philosophy. However, we will be thorough and very detailed as we evaluate the elements of your portfolio as they currently exist, and we will be using the same rubrics that we use to grade your portfolios at the end of the semester. Please keep in mind that this is not necessarily a complete and exhaustive list of ways to improve, just one of many rounds of feedback.
We want to use mid-semester feedback to make it clear what our expectations are and what you may still need to do to meet those expectations. So, please take mid-semester feedback seriously! There are two main ways you can do this:
- Be as close to complete as possible: The more you have done, the more we can evaluate. It’s not the end of the world if you still have a few things to add to your Showcase (after all, it won’t count against your grade), but it does give us fewer opportunities to guide your thinking and your work.
- Take our feedback to heart: This is ultimately your portfolio, and we hope that you will truly make it yours, even if that means tossing out some of our requirements once the course is done. However, since this is your final project for an entire master’s program, we do have some specific expectations about what should be included and how it should be done. Please take our evaluation and feedback seriously—it will help all of us (especially you!) save some time and effort at the end of the semester.
In Module 9, we’ll ask you to read over your mid-semester feedback and reflect on it.
Reynolds, A. (2009). Why every student needs critical friends. Educational Leadership, 67(3), 54-57.
🔍 Rubric for posting reflections and feedback
When you post and reply in this course, please pay attention to the following guidelines. These guidelines also form the basis for the rubric used to grade your discussion contribution.
What makes for a good post?
It depends on the specific assignment, but the following generally apply:
- Pay attention to the prompts.
- Use a good portion of the 3 minutes allotted to you.
- Show us what you’re thinking and why you’re thinking it.
- When sharing your own work, point to some places where people who respond to you might be most helpful in giving you feedback.
What makes for a good feedback?
Good feedback is important in all design activities, including the design of portfolios. It is especially important in this class. When giving feedback, keep in mind that good feedback is:
- Thorough – Use a good portion of the 3 minutes allotted to you. Try to cover as many aspects of the assignment that you can—do not focus on only one thing. However, don’t try to cover too much, because each point you make should have some details (see next point).
- Specific – Avoid generalities like “you had a good design,” and instead be more specific, like “your headers are easy to read, clear, and helpful in breaking up text into more manageable pieces.”
- Critical – Point out what needs improving. Even if you’re looking at the best piece of work, you can give the author something to think about working towards or thinking about differently.
- Supportive – Point out what is working well. Even the earliest of drafts is the start of something good that can be highlighted as a success.
🔍 Tech Check requirements
Finding ways to meet face-to-face in an online class can be tough, but we’ve found that it’s worth it, especially for your exhibition in Module 11. To make exhibitions go smoothly and to give you some additional opportunities for face-to-face feedback, we require you to check out the Capstone Coffeehouse technology at least once by the end of Module 10. In short, the Capstone Coffeehouse is Zoom – the video conferencing software we use in this course.
You can find some general information on using the Capstone Coffeehouse here. To fulfill this requirement (and get your points), you must specifically do four things:
- Check video: Make sure that your webcam is working and that you (and others) show up on the screen when you join the Coffeehouse. This should happen automatically.
- Check audio: Make sure that you can hear other people in the Coffeehouse and that they can hear you. Zoom, the Coffeehouse technology, should ask you for permission to use your speakers and microphone once you join. In a few cases, though, this takes a little fiddling to get it to work properly.
- Check chat: Make sure that you know how to open the chat window in Zoom (the Coffeehouse technology) and that you can read and write messages properly. If you’re using the Zoom desktop client, the Chat button should appear at the bottom of the Zoom window.
- Check a page: You (and each of your classmates) should take a few minutes to share a page that you’ve recently completed. If possible, make this a Piece of Flair page, but you really have free range on what you’d like to look at. Have some specific questions and concerns in mind: What are you trying to accomplish with this page? What are you still struggling with? This is a great chance to “practice” for the end-of-semester exhibitions and to get some more face-to-face feedback, which capstone students consistently point to as one their most valuable experiences.
For most people, the Tech Check is a quick and easy assignment, but problems do occasionally occur. If you are experiencing frustration with the Tech Check, keep in mind that it’s better to experience this during the Tech Check than during the exhibition! Also, please remember what you had to do to get past the difficult spots, just in case they come up again.
There are two ways to complete the Tech Check: through office half hours or with a classmate.
Office half hours (if you prefer to talk to instructors)
In addition to talking about your portfolio during an office half hours session, you can carry out the Tech Check with the instructor who is running office half hours. Just mention that you’d like to take care of your Tech Check, and she or he will walk you through the steps and make sure to give you the points!
Classmate (if you prefer to talk to your fellow educators)
The great thing about the Coffeehouse technology is that it is available 24/7. If one of the office half hours sessions doesn’t work for you or you would prefer to meet with a classmate instead, you can schedule a time to meet with a classmate in the Coffeehouse and take care of the Tech Check on your own. Walk through the four specific steps listed above, and once you’ve made sure that everything works for all of you, send us an email to let us know that you took care of everything. While this should be a short email, please include enough detail that we know who you worked with and that you walked through all four steps together.
🔍 What should I do with the feedback I receive?
Equally important as giving good feedback is learning how to receive good feedback. We have a few tips for receiving feedback:
- Take time to process the feedback. Carefully review the feedback you received and take time to go through it. We can sometimes read constructive feedback as critical feedback, but this feedback may be especially helpful to the development of your portfolio. If some of the feedback seems critical, taking time to see the value in it can be helpful.
- Think through how the feedback applies to your portfolio. While we trust that the feedback you receive will be helpful, there are always opportunities to think through how the feedback applies to your portfolio. For example, specific feedback about how to organize a specific page may not make sense given your audience and goals, but the general idea of the feedback may still let you know that you need to organize it to be easier to navigate. Other feedback may be helpful and aligned with the rubric and assignment descriptions but not line up with your good reasons for designing a page or your portfolio in a specific way. In these cases where your design may not align with feedback you receive, please feel free to reach out to the person providing it—or us—to clarify and expand on the feedback. We are always happy to help with this in any way we can.
- Make a plan for changes, but recognize that some may take longer than others. If portfolios are to be authentic and ongoing, everyone needs some flexibility in when they will introduce all of the changes that have been suggested. If you simply don’t have time to make a particular change to your portfolio (especially if the change isn’t a critical part of the assignment requirements), try to leave a record of the suggested change and go back to it later. Think of these as not as an “IOU” but as an “IOM,” meaning something “I Owe Myself.” Of course, you are also free to say, “My portfolio was actually perfect before the feedback and there was really nothing I learned from feedback that was worth treating seriously, so I’ve made no changes as a result of the experience.” We think that’s highly unlikely to happen, though.
🔍 When are Office Half Hours?
Office half hours are optional times that instructors are available for you to meet online in our capstone coffeehouse to discuss your work, ask questions, or get additional feedback. They are completely and totally optional, although office half hours is one way you can meet the tech-check requirement.
Our office half hours are held in the capstone coffeehouse (under the “Communicate” menu). Our scheduled time for office half hours are below. Please note that all times reflect the Eastern Time Zone. Appointments are available too, with details listed at the bottom of this page.
|Module 3||Matt||Tuesday, January 22nd||9:00PM-9:30PM|
|By Appointment||By Appointment|
|Module 4||Aric||Monday, January 28th||5:00PM-5:30PM|
|By Appointment||By Appointment|
|Module 5||Matt||Thursday, Feb 7th||9:00PM-9:30PM|
|By Appointment||By Appointment|
|Module 6||Aric||Tuesday, Feb 12th||4:30PM-5:00PM|
|By Appointment||By Appointment|
|Module 7||Aric||Wednesday, Feb 20th||5:00PM-5:30PM|
|Matt||Tuesday, Feb 19th||9:00-9:30PM|
|Module 8||Aric||Wednesday, Feb 27th||4:30-5:00PM|
|Matt||Monday, Feb 25th||8:30-9:00PM|
|Module 9 (Week 1)||Aric||Wednesday, March 6th||4:45-5:15PM|
|Matt||Thursday, March 7th||9:00-9:30PM|
|Module 9 (Week 2)||Matt||Tuesday, March 12th||9:00-9:30PM|
|Aric||Sunday, March 17th||10:00-10:30AM|
|Module 10 (Week 1)||Matt||Thurs, March 21st||8:00-8:30PM|
|Aric||Saturday, March 23rd||11:00-11:30AM|
|Module 10 (Week 2)||Matt||Monday, March 25th||8:00-8:30PM|
|Aric||Friday, March 29th||5:00-5:30PM|
Office half hours are opportunities to prepare for the end-of-semester exhibition in Module 11. This is particularly true from a technology perspective, since we want to help you iron out any bugs or problems well ahead of time. However, this is also true from a face-to-face perspective; one of the most common things we hear every semester is that people wish they had had more opportunities to meet with classmates and instructors face to face. Although we don’t have any “mid-semester exhibitions,” office half hours are meant to provide this kind of opportunity throughout the semester!
If any of these times don’t work for you, and you need help or need to meet the Tech Check requirement by the end of Module 10, contact us to schedule an alternative time for you that works.
Please also keep in mind that you can use the Coffeehouse to meet with your classmates! If you’d like to get some face-to-face feedback from someone in your house, just set up a time to meet together and use the Coffeehouse to do it!
Where are office half hours?
Access office half hours by clicking the ☕ button on the menubar on the top of this page, or by reading our full overview of and instructions for the Coffeehouse.
🔍 Why write a synthesis essay?
The university requires that there be a comprehensive examination—written, oral, or both—for all graduate degrees. In the past, this might have been a one-day sit down examination or a two-week take home examination. The good news is that your portfolio and the “exhibition” of your portfolio collectively meet the university requirement. We think your capstone portfolio is both meaningful and comprehensive, and we want graduates of our program to showcase their accomplishments. Administratively, the synthesis essay plays an especially important role, as it is read carefully and kept on file as evidence of your having met the comprehensive examination. So you should view this essay as presenting a comprehensive look at what you have accomplished and learned in the master’s program as well as being a part of your Web portfolio that is useful to you beyond the master’s program.