Planning & Writing Your Rationale Essay


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Rationale Essay? Are you unsure of how to begin? Of what to include?

Designing your own degree plan is difficult; writing about that plan is even harder. Thinking about your degree plan as your resume & the rationale essay as your cover letter is the approach we take in this workshop that will introduce you to the steps & strategies necessary to complete the most unique piece of writing that you will do at ESC .

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Planning & Writing Your Rationale Essay

  1. 1. How to Organize & WriteYour Rationale Essay
  2. 2. Agenda• The WHAT/PURPOSE/WHEN of & RESEARCH for the Rationale Essay• The HOW – How to Organize the Rationale Essay• Rationale Essay Resources• Questions?
  3. 3. A Rationale Essay is…• Unique. Few, if any, colleges require such a document from students. This essay describes, explains and justifies your degree plan.• 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.• A description of how your degree program fits the academic and professional expectations in your field of study.• An important part of your degree program portfolio that will be read by your mentor and three faculty members.• Similar to 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 General Education requirements).• Worked on with the guidance and support of your mentor. Usually 5 – 8 pages in length. “Rationale: (n.) A statement of reasons.” (Oxford English Dictionary)
  4. 4. 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.• Is required for degree program review and approval (a precursor to concurrence & graduation).• A well-written essay can expedite the review process.
  5. 5. Purpose of Rationale continued• To show that you have understood and met – Area of Study guidelines – Concentration guidelines• To demonstrate that your degree program has depth and breadth.• To explain the way(s) in which PLA (prior learning assessment) fits into your degree plan. – PLA is the same as CBE credit by evaluation in DP planner• To explain any concerns your degree plan might raise (i.e. overlap).
  6. 6. When do you write your rationale essay?• An assignment as part of Educational Planning.• When you have finalized your degree plan in DP planner.
  7. 7. Research for your Degree (Feeds into the content of your Rationale Essay)Research includes any resources you consulted to help you create your degree:• Your mentor, other faculty members in relevant areas of study and concentration guidelines.• Other college curriculums/catalogs.• Academic and/or professional expectations for your current or target field of interest. Experts in the field, current and future employers, professional organizations, journals, graduate school admission offices, Occupational Outlook Handbook, etc.
  8. 8. How to Organize Your Rationale• Introduction – a statement of your goals, degree plan.• Major sections/topics to be addressed: 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 organizedand easy to read.
  9. 9. IntroductionIn general, the following should be included in your introduction:• The Area of Study and Concentration your degree represents.• A brief description of your academic/professional path that led you to Empire State College• Your personal, professional and academic goals.
  10. 10. Area of Study Guidelines• Using your Student Degree Planning Guide, discuss how you met each component of your area of study (AOS) – Describe each objective outlined in your AOS guidelines and discuss how specific study/studies, prior learning assessments, or credit by examinations helped you met that objective. – Include any research you’ve completed to develop your degree plan as it relates to the AOS guidelines to support your discussion.
  11. 11. Concentration Guidelines• Using your Student Degree Planning Guide, discuss how you met each component of your 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.• Elaborate (if necessary) on why you made specific choices within the concentration. • Specific job skills necessary for the field • Extra room in the degree plan • Graduate school plans
  12. 12. Concentration guidelines continued• If there are no guidelines for your concentration, it is your responsibility to clearly articulate what skills and knowledge someone in this field should possess and point out how your degree plan will allow you to develop them. (DEVELOP THIS WITH YOUR MENTOR)• Include any research you’ve completed to develop your degree plan as it relates to support your discussion.• Develop your reasoning and research-based concentration components and show how individual studies, PLAs, etc. help you met these components.• You may want to point out the progression of your learning in your concentration.
  13. 13. General Learning & General Education• Make a statement about why you find it valuable to be broadly educated.• Note that you have met the general education requirements.• Remark on the integration of learning (how your general learning and concentration are interrelated).• Point out the depth and breadth of learning.
  14. 14. 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/learn more deeply.
  15. 15. What is “breadth?”• Breadth shows how broadly educated you will be as a result of your degree.• In your general learning/general education discussion, emphasize how and why the studies outside your concentration are valuable to you.
  16. 16. Conclusion• In your concluding paragraph you might reflect on the value of your education and the importance this degree has for you and your academic/professional goals.
  17. 17. Important considerations• Make sure you address 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 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.
  18. 18. 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!• Most rationales are 5-8 pages.
  19. 19. 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.
  20. 20. What Happens 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.
  21. 21. Rationale Essay ResourcesRead the helpful information about rationales in: Degree Planning Guide & Area of Study website