Using portfolios effectively

I posted this on the IB Online Curriculum Center Forum, but so far I had no replies. I would really treasure your input!

I am struggling a bit with making portfolios a meaningful and integrated part in my classroom.

We just started the year and have used portfolios at the beginning to establish some goals for the term. The purpose is to refer back to those goals all the time. We also added some work samples in already, but it felt more like an unrelated exercise.

How do people integrate portfolios so they become a part of learning?

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4 thoughts on “Using portfolios effectively

  1. What type of goals are the portfolio’s supposed to be showing/meeting? Are there standards, benchmarks, etc. that you want to show the students they have met? Are all subjects represented? Just trying to see what you want to do with the portfolio.

    • Hi Jess, thanks for the comments. The portfolio is a collection of work chosen by students and teachers. Assessments for the units of inquiry, and math are kept in there, but the rest is chosen freely by teacher and students.

      Music, Art, PE, Italian are also represented, this is the class and specialist teachers’ responsibility, as well as the student’s.

      The aim is to show development, to show learning over time. It is great when we put in samples now, and students formulate goals out of them. This is why I tend to ask probing questions, such as “What was great about this?”, “What could have been better?”.

  2. It’s something we’re working on too.
    My co-teacher Joc has created a slip which the kids fill in and add with the samples they’re putting in. It has ‘What did I do?’ (describing the learning experience) and ‘Why am I including it?’ (eg It shows the progress I have made in my writing). You could devlop your own version for younger kids. It helps kids reflect on the actual learning, rather than just shove in a piece of work. Or do you have something like this already in place? Do kids select the opieces to include?
    Another idea is to use photos you take in the classroom during learning activities. Get kids to choose which one they want to include, and write a short reflection about what they were doing, what they learned from it, what PYP attitudes they were showing… or whatever.
    Am I giving you idea here… or just stating the obvious? 🙂

    • Ed, thanks for your comments. I have created my own version of “What I am doing …” and “Why did I chose this…”. It is still early day and the reasons are not deep reflection, but tend to be comments like “because I liked it”. I use prompts such as “How did it make you feel”, “”What was good about it?”, “What could have been better”, etc to further that.
      I haven’t thought about bringing in attitudes or lp attributes yet, but it makes sense…
      And as far as photos go, yes, photos all the way, because a lot of learning actually happens away from paper and pen, so most of the evidence is actually photographic.

      My main struggle is the process of portfolios. Getting the students to decide something is going into their portfolio. How does it become natural, without requiring a slot of time during the week?

      One thing that might work is taking the portfolios off the shelf, and putting them into the student’s trays, but I am not sure this will make it more natural at all, or if they are bound to be forgotten in there. They are accessible on the shelves as well.

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