The previous eight modules have taken you on a journey through your experience in your master’s degree program and ways in which that will lead you to bigger and better things in the future. In this 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.

We also have a few other “housekeeping” Missions to take care of in this module. While your focus for the next two weeks (yup, two!) 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.

In the Module 9 video, Sarah regrets everything about trying to dub Spencer back, as apparently foreign language teachers have phenomenal pronunciation skills and elocution styles that are impossibly tricky to match. (We also discuss timelines and briefly go over the Missions.)

There are two due dates in this module: Missions 1 and 2 are due by July 17th (at or before 11:59 PM Eastern Time), and Missions 3 and 4 are due by July 24th (at or before 11:59 PM Eastern Time). We encourage you to begin early in each week – it is not possible to complete the entire module at the last minute.


Why is this module so long?

There are two reasons for this. First, we’re asking you to complete more Missions than usual. However, the mid-semester feedback reflection and exhibition scheduling shouldn’t take you that long, so this isn’t the whole reason. Simply put, the synthesis essay is a really important Mission, and we’d give you two weeks to work on it even if there weren’t other things to do. Many master’s programs have a thesis as a final requirement, and students spend months doing the research and writing to get those ready. You’ve been spending months doing the reflection and design for your portfolio, and the synthesis essay is a key element of turning your portfolio into solid evidence that you are ready to graduate.

Why write a synthesis essay?

The university requires that there be a comprehensive examination—written, oral, or both—for all graduate degrees. [Read more about it here]

How do I view mid-semester feedback?

If you’re having trouble finding your mid-semester feedback, take a look at our FAQ page on checking your grades. *You should not only be able to see the rubrics, but read the narrative feedback that your instructor has left, too*

Why reflect on my mid-semester feedback?

We take feedback seriously in this class, and we’re especially keen on formative feedback. All too often, students don’t get feedback on their work until it’s too late to change it. We do our best during mid-semester feedback to let you know what’s going well and to bring to your attention anything that could be a problem at end-of-semester grading. Our biggest concern with that feedback is that we weren’t clear in our comments, that something doesn’t make sense, or that you don’t get a chance to go over it. By asking you to reflect on the feedback you’ve received from us at this stage, we make sure that we’re taking care of you as well as we can.

What are some exemplary Synthesis Essays?

If you’re looking for inspiration for this Mission, check out the links below. Each of these links represents an example of this Mission from a previous semester that was done well and that you should feel free to emulate. However, that doesn’t mean that these examples are perfect, so please don’t copy them.

Please also keep in mind that we tweak our Mission requirements from semester to semester. These portfolios, while exemplary, might not reflect our current requirements or emphasize the same things that we focus on this semester. When in doubt, check the Mission descriptions or ask us!

  • Sarah Higgs-James – Engaging narrative and use of multimedia within Google Docs linked from the landing page
  • Elissa McClain – Clearly connects individual courses with classroom practice
  • James Perry – Neatly sums up the experience of the master’s program as a whole (and not just a collection of classes)
  • Ann Blaauw – This essay effectively weaves together experiences from different classes with the overall program experience and the portfolio experience
  • Janine Baur – Attractive design as well as effective integration of personal reflection and course descriptions.

Where can I find help in writing essays?

This helpful advice from the MAET program will help you know more about our general expectations for writing and how you can meet them. [Read more about it here]

🔗Mission 1

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This Mission is due by July 17th.
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Overview—The mid-semester feedback reflection

This Mission has you read over the formative feedback we recently gave you and think about how you will apply it as you move forward with your portfolio. Complete this Mission by doing each of the following steps:

Read over your mid-semester feedback

If you haven’t done so already, go to D2L and read over the feedback we left you on your portfolio. You should be able to see the markings in the rubric and the narrative comments your instructor left. If you aren’t sure how to do this, we have an FAQ page that includes a helpful video tutorial.

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 your thoughts

For this Mission, post your feedback at bottom of THIS page (just below this list); you’ll enter it in the box under “Leave a Reply” (just like you did back in Module 1 with the emails to last semester’s students).

Please write a brief, 4-6 sentence reflection on the feedback you received. In this reflection, please make sure to mention:

  • What you learned from your feedback.
  • At least one change you plan on making as a result of this feedback.
  • Whether you have any questions about Mission requirements or other parts of the course.

🔗Mission 2

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This Mission is due by July 17th.
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Overview—Exhibition sign up

This Mission has you sign up for your exhibition at the end of the semester.

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. Complete this Mission by doing each of the following concrete steps:

Visit the exhibition sign up page

We use this Google Doc to keep track of available exhibition times. Once you’ve received the email that it’s open, just click on the link to see what times are available!

Claim your spot

Once you’ve identified a time that works for you, follow the model on the Google Doc to write down your name, your email address, and the URL for your portfolio. Keep in mind that all times are Eastern Time. In the past we have received feedback from students that they got more value from this experience by meeting people from other Houses and checking out completely new portfolios. While we understand that your schedule is the main factor in signing up, we do encourage you to select an exhibition time with students from other Houses when possible.

🔗Mission 3

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Overview—Synthesis Essay

In this Mission we ask you to create the final required essay, the Synthesis Essay. For this essay, we ask you to think about what you learned throughout your master’s program. This Mission is the equivalent of a comprehensive exam or a thesis in other master’s programs. Please keep this in mind as you write this essay.

Essentially, this essay is your chance to show us that this program taught you something and changed who you are, and we would love to see clear and specific evidence of that!

As you do this Mission, keep in mind that you should have a well-completed essay at the end of this Mission to share with others and should be ready to talk about the decisions you made. Complete this Mission by following each of the following concrete steps:

Think about your experience as a master’s student

Spend some time reflecting on 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.

Think about scope and tone

Now that you have an idea of what you might write about, anticipate how you might write about it:

  • Focus on discussing a few topics or ideas in depth rather than trying to cover many topics superficially.
  • Don’t let the administrative aspect of this Mission 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.

Write, write, and write again

Using what you’ve done in steps 1 and 2 of this Mission, write about 2000 words on your experience in your master’s program. Take advantage of the length of this module to go through a few drafts of this essay and get it exactly how you want it.

Consider the standards of excellence for this module

As you design your page, please use the following standards of excellence to guide your work. These represent the particular criteria that your instructors will be looking for and giving feedback on in this Mission. These standards form the basis of our full grading rubric, on which we base our end of the semester assessment of portfolios.

  • Title: Does your essay have an expressive title?
  • Quality of 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 at least 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 2,000 words?

Common issues

  • 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 the first time you use it, and you should also consider defining terms that aren’t commonly used.
  • Make sure to include some insights from both your individual classes and the program as a whole.

🔗Mission 4

Post in Piazza

For this module, please post the following to Piazza:

  • A link to the essay you created for Module 9 and
  • One healthy paragraph on: (a) what you like about your design and content of your Synthesis essay, and (b) what you would like some feedback on to help improve your Synthesis essay.

Posting your Powerups in Piazza

If you have completed a new Powerup then post about it in Piazza by doing the following:

  • Go to your house in Piazza
  • If this is your first Powerup, find the post called “Powerup #1!”, if this is your second Powerup find “Powerup #2!”, and if this is your third (or fourth, or fifth…) find “Powerup #3!”.
  • Post a reply to the post with the following
    • The Web address of your Powerup.
    • A paragraph explaining why you chose to complete this particular Powerup.
    • If this is your second or third Powerup, please include how you see it relating to previous Powerups and the overall shape and development of your portfolio.
    • Anything you’d like your housemates to pay particular attention to.

Just as for our regular weekly postings, give feedback to two others. Give preference to those who have little or no feedback yet (of course, this is all subject to the Bonuses and Bummers Policy).

How to post in Piazza (in brief)

If you need a hand posting to Piazza, use the “Class Discussion” links on the right hand side of the page to go directly to your house’s discussion space on Piazza, find the correct discussion for this module, read the directions carefully, and post. More detailed instructions are available here.


Grading rubric for this module

Each Mission in this course is important for developing your abilities to design and implement your portfolio. Recall that there are 100 total points assigned in this course; the specific Mission(s) in this module will count towards your grade as follows:

  • (1 point) – Mid-semester Reflection – up to one point will be awarded based on the quality and completeness of your reflection on the mid-semester feedback you’ve received.
  • (1 point) – Scheduling your Exhibition – one point will be awarded if you schedule your exhibition on time
  • (1 point) – Initial Post – Posting about your Mission as described in Piazza. Up to one point will be awarded based upon the completeness of your initial Piazza post.
  • (1 point) – Providing Feedback – Up to one point will be awarded based upon the quality and completeness of your feedback to two of your peers. [Keep in mind our “Bonuses and Bummers” policy.]
  • (2 points) – Tech Check – Carry out your Tech Check before the end of Module 10. To learn more, see our Tech Check information.

Advice and help about course grades

  • Learn how to check grades in the course by reading this helpful guide.
  • Check grades early and often! This will help you understand your progress in the course and will help us correct any errors as soon as possible.
  • Pay attention to how each module is graded. We provide details about the grading rubric for each module.
  • Understand the late work policy. If you know you’re going to be late, contact us ahead of time and ask for a (reasonable) extension. Otherwise, work is accepted up to 48 hours late with 1/2 credit. The full policy is detailed in the syllabus.
  • The full grading policy is detailed in the syllabus.


Powerups information

In addition to the weekly modules and components that we walk you through, each portfolio is required to have a number of Powerups. These Powerups are features, technologies, or pages that you add to your portfolio based upon what best suits you and your audience.

Keep in mind that you will have to add three Powerups to your portfolio before the course is over. We recommend the following timing to stay on track with Powerups. While there are no points or late penalty associated with this timing, it is in your best interest to try to stick to it in order to stay on pace to successfully complete the course.

  • First Powerup – Complete by the end of Module 5
  • Second Powerup – Complete by the end of Module 8
  • Third Powerup – Complete by the end of Module 11

More details about Powerups, including a list of all possible Powerups and full details on the timing of Powerups, is available here.

Recommended Powerups

If you’ve completed this Mission early or if the theme of this module is particularly important for your portfolio, we encourage you to start thinking about Powerups that are related to this module’s work. We think the following ones fit particularly well with what you’re currently working on:

  • Teaching Philosophy—We hope that your master’s experience has changed the way that you look at teaching and learning. If your synthesis essay has you thinking about that, now might be a good time to write up your teaching philosophy.
  • Professional Transcript—Your synthesis essay should focus on the classes you’ve taken as part of your master’s, but we know that’s probably not all that you’ve learned over the past couple of years. If professional development has also played a big role in your growth as a teacher, consider completing a professional transcript to demonstrate that growth.