Workshop Description “Rationale: (n.) A statement of reasons.” (OED)• Your rationale essay is unique. Few, if any, colleges require such a document from students.• It is very different than other types of college writing. It is a personal statement of your goals, the research you’ve done about related learning opportunities and your explanation of your degree program.• Think of it as the cover letter to explain your résumé (degree plan) and how your experiences (credits) best meet the requirements of the job (Area of Study Guidelines and Gen Ed).• This workshop will help you organize your ideas and begin writing/refining your rationale essay.
Agenda• THE WHAT, WHEN, and PURPOSE of the Rationale Essay• THE HOW – How to Organize the Rationale Essay• Rationale Essay Resources and Academic Support• Questions?
What is a rationale essay?• An essay that describes, explains and justifies your degree plan.• An important part of your degree program portfolio that will be read by your mentor and three faculty members.• A description of how your degree program fits the academic and professional expectations in your field of study.• Usually 5 – 8 pages long.
What is the purpose of the rationale essay?• To explain the reasons for the design of your degree plan.• To show that you can effectively communicate to others that you understand the design of your degree plan.• To explain why you think your degree program will provide you with a sound educational experience.• To show how your degree plan will help you meet your educational and professional goals.
Purpose of rationale continued...• To show that you have understood and met the Area of Study guidelines.• To show that you have understood and met the Concentration guidelines.• To demonstrate that your degree program has depth and breadth.• To explain any concerns your degree plan might raise (i.e. overlap).
When do you write your rationale essay?• The last assignment of Educational Planning.• When you have completed your degree plan.
How to Organize Your Rationale• Introduction – a statement of your goals, degree plan.• 3 most important sections: 1. Area of Study Guidelines 2. Concentration Guidelines 3. General Learning• Conclusion – a summary of your learning experience and its value to you and your goals.Label the sections clearly in your essay.Your essay should be well organized andeasy to read.
I - IntroductionIt’s appropriate to describe in your introduction:• The Area of Study and Concentration your degree represents.• Your personal, professional and academic goals.• The research you’ve done to develop your degree plan.
What does “research” mean?Research includes any resources you consulted to help you create your degree:• Your mentor, other faculty members in relevant areas of study, the AOS guidelines.• Other college curriculums/catalogs.• Experts in the field, current and future employers, professional organizations, journals, graduate school admission offices, etc.
II - Area of Study Guidelines• Using your Student Degree Planning Guide show how you met each component of your area of study.• Don’t just make a list, but briefly describe how you’ve met each component with a specific study, prior learning assessments, or credit by examination.
III - Concentration Guidelines• Again using the Student Degree Planning Guide discuss how your degree meets the concentration guidelines: the skills and knowledge someone with your degree should have.• Specifically point out what courses or PLAs meet the various components of the guidelines. If you are currently working in the field, you may refer to your job, but be careful not to simply describe what you do.
III - Concentration guidelines continued• If there are no concentration guidelines for your concentration, you must clearly explain what skills and knowledge someone in this field should possess and point out how your degree plan will allow you to develop them.• You may want to point out the progression of your learning in your concentration.
What is “depth?”• Depth refers mostly to your concentration and the upper level studies you’ve taken that have helped you develop a deeper understanding of your subject area.• You might point out that you developed a good foundation with lower level studies and went on (or plan to) take more advanced studies to increase your knowledge.
IV - General Learning (General Education Requirements)• Point out that you have met the general education requirements.• Point out the depth and breadth of learning in your degree.• Make a statement about why you find it valuable to be broadly educated.
What is “breadth?”• Breadth refers to the how many different kinds of studies are represented on your degree plan: it shows how broadly educated you will be as a result of your degree.• In your discussion of breadth, you should mention that you’ve met the General Education Requirements.
Breadth continued…• Refer the reader to the General Education chart you will have attached to your rationale.• In your discussion of breadth include how and why the studies outside your concentration are valuable to you.
V -Conclusion• In your concluding paragraph you might reflect on the meaning/value your education and this degree has for you.
A good outline for your rationale:Introduction and Discussion of Degree Plan Design- statement of degree (AOS & concentration)- statement of goals- definition/explanation of your degree plan- researchArea of Study- demonstrate that you understand guidelines- show how you will meet each componentConcentration- demonstrate that you understand guidelines- show how you will meet each componentGeneral Learning- Point out progression of learning (foundation through advanced level)- Point out integration of learning ( how your general learning and concentration are interrelated)- Point out that the Gen Ed requirements have been metConclusion - Reflections on your education and attaining your degree
Reminder: What must the rationale essay include?• A statement of your • Explanation how you met academic, career (and your Concentration personal) goals. guidelines• Description of your program • Discussion of the depth and of study (AOS and breadth of your degree concentration) • The general education• Your research requirements and the• Explanation of how you met importance of general the AOS guidelines learning in your degree
Important considerations• Make sure you answer any questions in your essay that might come up, such as why some credit that should be clearly present (i.e. to meet an AOS Guideline) in your degree plan might be embedded in a course or prior learning.• If you have an unusual degree for which there are no concentration guidelines in The Student Planning Guide, the burden is on you to make sure the committee understands your degree.
Important considerations continued…• If it appears that there might be possible overlap between studies or PLA, make sure you explain.• Make sure you talk a bit about how your concentration and general learning are integrated: how do some of the courses on the right side of your degree support your concentration.
REMBEMBER TO CHECK…• The essay must be an accurate reflection of your degree plan. Check to make sure that the degree title matches, that all the courses or PLA topics you mention in the essay are in fact on your degree plan.• Most rationales are 5-8 pages.
Some rational rationale advice• Expect to write several drafts of the essay—so give yourself the necessary time.• Double check that the titles of degree and courses match your degree plan.• Use headings for the various sections of your essay.• Make sure you have your name on the essay and number the pages.• It helps to date your drafts!
Some rational rationale advice continued…• It’s important that your essay is well-written and carefully proofread. In part you are demonstrating the quality of your thinking and writing (thus your education) in this essay.• Your mentor must read and approve your essay before it is submitted to the Assessment Office.
What happens with the rationale essay during the review process?• Three faculty review your degree plan and supporting materials; they carefully read your essay and refer to your rationale during the portfolio discussion for answers that may arise during the review.• Your rationale therefore needs to be clearly written, in terms that faculty outside of your particular field of study will understand.
Read the helpful information about rationales in yourDegree Planning Guide http://www.esc.edu/aos