Reflective and social pedagogy: Writing a personal statement for a scholarship application

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This assignment lives in San Francisco State University’s Health Education 120 course (Educational Justice, Health Equity, and Academic Success). This course is part of a learning community with Ethnic Studies 110 (Critical Thinking and the Ethnic Studies Experience) and is a first-year experience course in the Metro Academy of Health program (Metro). Metro is a learning community program that offers extra support to students and is designed for students interested in community/public health, education and social justice issues. In Metro, learners will become strong advocates for community health and social justice by learning to write effectively, speak powerfully, and think critically about community and public health concerns.

In the second week of the course, a financial aid counselor conducts an in-class workshop in class on how to write a compelling personal statement. The students then write a personal statement for a scholarship application, go through a peer review process, and then post it to their ePortfolio (next semester we will likely conduct peer review via the ePortfolios). Here is the general assignment description along with writing prompts:

Through a personal statement, you introduce yourself to a scholarship committee; it reflects your personality, interests, goals, and commitments. When writing a personal statement, it is important that you read each question carefully and make every effort to understand and respond to the question with well-considered responses.

Your statement should be fresh, lively, and different. Put yourself ahead of the pack. Think in terms of showing or demonstrating through concrete experiences. One of the worst things you can do is to bore the admissions committee.

Write a personal statement in which you tell the scholarship committee about yourself. Address the following questions in your personal statement. Each response should be a paragraph long.

  • How have you contributed to your community and/or college or university?
  • What academic achievements are you proud of?
  • What are your educational and career goals?
  • What significant factors or events in your life that have impacted your desire or ability to attend college?
  • Who has inspired you?

What are some challenges you face including but not limited to financial needs?

Where is the practice used?

  • Individual class
  • Program
    • First Year Programs
    • Learning Communities
    • Other High Impact Practices

This assignment lives in San Francisco State University’s Health Education 120 course (Educational Justice, Health Equity, and Academic Success). This course is part of a learning community with Ethnic Studies 110 (Critical Thinking and the Ethnic Studies Experience) and is a first-year experience course in the Metro Academy of Health program (Metro). Metro is a learning community program that offers extra support to students and is designed for students interested in community/public health, education and social justice issues.

Reflection as Integrative

Students’ ePortfolio reflections are designed to help them…

  • Make connections within a course
  • Make connections across courses and semesters
  • Make connections across disciplines
  • Make connections among academic experiences, co-curricular & lived experiences

This exercise aims to help students think about their academic and career goals, think about how they got to where they currently are (inspirations, obstacles, etc.), and to think about why they deserve something that will help them succeed in college. Many of our students haven’t thought this way about themselves before this program, or haven’t had an opportunity to articulate this to anyone.

Reflection as systematic & disciplined

Students’ ePortfolio reflection processes embody…

  • A structured & scaffold process
  • The reflective cycle

This is assigned in the first semester and is the beginning of students learning how to respond to reflective prompts. The context of this is for scholarship application, but it is revisited throughout the semester and program. Students post the statement onto their ePortfolio shortly after completing it and instructors refer back to it throughout the program. Having it posted on their ePortfolio helps ensure it is in a ‘safe place’ in case students want to revise it and reuse it for other purposes (applying for additional scholarships, applying to a major, etc.).One or more financial aid counselors initially guide this exercise by conducting a workshop (during class time) on how to write a compelling essay/personal statement. The students learn how to write a good personal statement in a format that will likely come up again throughout their college career.

Reflection as Social Pedagogy

Students use ePortfolio to share/peer review/ discuss/collaborate, connecting around course work, reflections, plans, goals, stories, etc.

  • Sharing their ePortfolios w/ & getting comments from faculty
  • Sharing & engaging in interactive ePortfolio commentary w/ other students
  • Sharing their ePortfolios w/ & getting comments from external groups

The students use peer review for this exercise. We haven’t yet used their ePortfolios as the medium for peer review, but we will begin to do so next academic year. (They currently just post the final version on their ePortfolio).Students also have the opportunity to present this part of their ePortfolio at the end-of-semester ‘showcase.’ The audience for this includes their peers, Metro faculty, and Metro administration.

Reflection as a process of guiding personal change

Students use ePortfolio for educational and career development, identity formation, by …

  • Articulating their educational and career goals
  • Considering their evolving personal relationship to learning and education
  • Completing/revising a plan of study
  • Planning/preparing for transfer or advanced education

This exercise helps students think about and articulate their educational and career goals. It can also help them better understand their academic self as they consider the various factors that lead them to college and the Metro program. They also have an opportunity to consider potential challenges they may face.Having it posted on their ePortfolio helps ensure it is in a ‘safe place’ in case students want to revise it and reuse it for other purposes (applying for additional scholarships, applying to a major, etc.).

Professional Development

Faculty and staff using this practice engage in the following ePortfolio-related professional development:

  • Workshops
  • Sustained seminars (semester long, year-long)

We have had an on-going faculty learning community, along with various pedagogical workshops. Topics for these include getting comfortable with ePortfolio as a technology, development of reflective prompts, and development and norming of grading rubrics.

Are Peer Mentors involved with this practice?

  • No

Professional Guidance


The Center for Teaching and Learning develops and guides professional development related to this practice:

  • No

Evidence

The following evidence associated with this and other similar practices has been collected:

  • # of students
  • Course completion
  • Pass rates
  • Retention rates
  • Student engagement through surveys/interviews

We have been collecting multiple types of evidence. However, this practice is bundled with several other educational interventions and high-impact practices. We do collect student feedback (via surveys and focus groups) on their experiences with ePortfolios in general.

Student work/ePortfolio examples

Personal Statement

Back in my grade-school years, when I was just a young, open-minded boy, the only thought that crossed my seven-year-old mind was basketball, video games, and comic books. Basically anything that avoided me from doing my homework. My life consists of family and friends. Everything was easily accomplished due to my caring family that provided me everything that I needed despite the fact that we were living paycheck by paycheck. The biggest problem that I ever had to solve was winning that close-call basketball game against a rival school. That was the sweet life of my childhood. Although it would be amazing to be able to live my childhood life again, years go by and now I am twenty-two years of age, attending a four-year university and on a pursuit of a degree in Public Health. The path that led me here was no easy path. I encountered conflicts and changes, but it has affected my life in a positive way. The man that I am at this moment was established by my ambitions and my trials and even though I am not yet in the goal that I prefer to be, I believe that every moment in my life is an achievement, whether it be a big achievement or a small one.

I started my journey to becoming interested in Public Health when I was asked by my girlfriend to attend a meeting at SFSU for Public Health. I wasn’t really interested, but she mentioned there was going to be free food and I couldn’t pass that up. When I reached the university class room, I saw a bunch of kids and two instructors preparing to speak. Fifteen minutes in the meeting, the speaker asked us to split into two groups, one that was going to City College and one to State. Once we split the speaker told us about the perks of Public Health and giving us information that we didn’t knew before. Problems like how a family with low education would have to work harder and get lower pay to manage. Where we were located could affect a child’s ability to grow as a person. The idea that American society has changed from anyone can do anything to people with money and connections can do majority of everything while the rest works under them. The instant I heard these things I was hooked. I couldn’t get my mind off the fact my life was bad because of problems around me and not my family. From there I wanted to change my life and everyone who has been affected by these problems.

After spending some time in State, I wasn’t doing so well in school. I slipped into probation because of family problems that I came home every day. I was living in a home that had a broken family. Everyone was doing their own things, my parents were going through a divorce, bills were over do, and my life was in the middle since they would console in me with their problems. I couldn’t handle school on top of everything that was happening, but it didn’t change the fact I wanted to graduate with my degree in Public Health. I finally told my family how I felt and it gave me insight to who I was becoming. I couldn’t rely on my family to give me some peace and time to work on my future, so I told them that I needed space. I got the time I needed to work on me and rebuild my GPA at school. It was one of the hardest things that I have gone through so far, but I know it couldn’t bring me down. I used that energy to finish my classes with good grades.

I am now a junior in SFSU and I have a plan to graduate by spring 2013. I want to have my bachelors in Public Health and go even further by getting into the Master’s program in Public Health. I would like to pursue a career in teaching of Public Health to spread the word about it or work in a policy level of Public Health and change how society is now. I am determined and set on my goals.

http://richardpham.efolioworld.com/Educational

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