Thursday, September 24, 2009

Portfolio Learning...its Happening!

Lake Louise MorningImage by swisscan via Flickr
I'm so pleased to report out that we are making some progress with portfolio learning at my school here in Palo Alto, California. Today I worked with some of the 9th grade students to introduce them to the concept of portfolio learning-see the google slide deck below. This slide deck was used to guide the conversation with the students today (I will make a recording of this and post the audio along with my slides in a future blog post here).

We know that the stories of our unique learning journeys cannot be boiled down to a letter grade. It is impossible to reduce our passion, interests and achievement to a set of numbers, symbols and letters. Back in my pre-service days at the University of Wisconsin - Madison we explored the potential of portfolios as a way to capture authentic student learning and achievement-but that was pre-internet and we only had analogue systems to track and manage the learner portfolios. We now have simple, easy to use systems in place for everyone to keep her own eportfolio that may be used across subjects, extra-curricular experiences, and academic years. Eportfolios have the potential for a learner to effectively tell her learning story and to make meaning of her learning in a way that works best for her.

I think this is going to turn into something really cool here at our school-I can't wait!

For more information on portfolios, visit Dr. Helen Barrett's site (she is the Queen Bee of portfolio learning).
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  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about portfolios and grades on my blog, Matt. I respect your work, and I fully agree. Though I haven't worked out the details of my own journey in this yet, the work of the authors you mentioned weigh heavily. It's funny--I've been reading Alfie Kohn for a long time. I wonder why he is suddenly speaking so loudly to me.

  2. Hey Susan, Thanks for the kind words and thanks for leaving a comment. I'm not so certain that portfolio learning will work in the existing constructs that most schools work within. I think that grades, check lists, symbols, etc are actually a fairly efficient way to give feedback on a typical student course load of 5-8 classes. However, even in this given paradigm, I think parents and community members will be much more interested in viewing actual student work on a portfolio than looking at some sheet of paper 4 times a year that is filled up with a bunch of letters and symbols. I agree with your sentiments on Alfie Kohn and I wonder if he feels a certain sense of frustration nearly 20 years after his "Punished by Rewards" piece. I think the over emphasis on rewards has worsened quite a bit since his book was published in the 90s.