Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Rhetoric and Technical Communication (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Humanities


Robert R Johnson


Portfolio use in writing studies contexts is becoming ubiquitous and, as such, portfolios are in danger of being rendered meaningless and thus require that we more fully theorize and historicize portfolios. To this end, I examine portfolios: both the standardized portfolio used for assessment purposes and the personalized portfolio used for entering the job market. I take a critical look at portfolios as a form of technology and acknowledge some of the dangers of blindly using portfolios for gaining employment in the current economic structure of fast capitalism. As educators in the writing studies fields, it is paramount that instructors have a critical awareness of the consequences of portfolio creation on students as designers, lifelong learners, and citizens of a larger society. I argue that a better understanding of the pedagogical implications for portfolio use is imperative before implementing them in the classroom, and that a social-epistemic approach provides a valuable rethinking of portfolio use for assessment purposes.

Further, I argue for the notions of meditation and transformation to be added alongside collection, selection, and reflection because they enable portfolio designers and evaluators alike to thoughtfully consider new ways of meaning-making and innovation. Also important and included with meditation and transformation is the understanding that students are ideologically positioned in the educational system. For them to begin recognizing their situatedness is a step toward becoming designers of change. The portfolio can be a site for that change, and a way for them to document their own learning and ways of making meaning over a lifetime.