As we transition back into School Mode, I’d like to offer a brief encouragement to use this school year to establish a system of student portfolios. If you’d like a “why” around this, I’ll point you to my Shadowcon Talk from a couple years ago.

If you’d prefer not to watch a video, here are the highlights:

  • Student portfolios allow students to demonstrate and realize their own growth over time (ok, just watch the first minute and a half of the video, up until “Damn, I’ve grown!”)
  • Rich tasks provide better data about what students know and can do than standardized test scores
  • Rich tasks better reflect our instruction and, as any follower of this blog or my twitter feed knows……

Provided you think of it and plan a bit before the school year starts, facilitating a portfolio system is not too difficult. Here’s what you need:

  • Six to ten rich problem-solving tasks
  • A calendar
  • A place to store student work
  • A tool to assess and/or have students self-reflect
  • A couple hours to collect the above items

Let’s take each one by one.

Six to ten rich problem solving tasks. In other words, Portfolio Problems. There are many places to find such tasks. I’ve started by asterisking problems in my Problem-Based Curriculum Maps that I think are worthy of a student portfolio. But I’m sure there are also excellent assessment items in your textbook. Yes, that’s right, your textbook. 

If it helps, consider this scoring guide for Quality Tasks card for a quick check on whether or not a task is worthy. (From Necessary Conditions.)

A calendar. Put the tasks on the calendar now. Every 4-6 weeks block off a couple of days for a Portfolio Problem. You can change them later, but if they’re on the calendar, they’ll get deployed. If they aren’t, they won’t, as other seemingly more urgent business pops up. You can also build in twenty minutes of reflection and share-out time the following class period. 

A place to store student work. Your options here are a file cabinet from an Army surplus store or Google Drive. (There are dozens of other options for physical work and digital work, but these are my go-to’s).

A tool to assess and/or have students self-reflect. After each problem you and/or your pupils will need to assess their work in the moment. Ideally, a you’d use a rubric with common indicators throughout the year. New Tech Network has Math rubrics (and a plethora of others, including Collaboration, Communication, and Agency) that work nicely. But feel free to use your own. 

A couple hours to collect the above items. This is why we’re doing this now. Hopefully you have a couple hours of individual or departmental planning time built in to your in-service before the year starts. The most effective thing you can do with these precious hours is identify nowmonths in advance – the problems you’d like to serve as Portfolio Problems. Once you have those problems identified and on the calendar, there’s no stopping you. 

Here is a related table from Necessary Conditions.

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