Thinking about What if we really utilized learning portfolios? 60-60-60 #30 and reflecting…

In the past two years, a number of us at Trinity have done significant work with learning profiles and comprehensive portfolios. The work has been both exhilarating and frustrating. It’s centered around new thinking (not just rethinking) in regards to student growth and learning. It’s a dashboard of learning — where pictures, videos, and text combine in a dynamic way to tell a child’s story over time. It’s a cacophony of voices — student, teacher, and occasionally parent. And, it’s still very much a work in progress — mostly due to the new wine and old wineskins thing.

As I think about how traditional progress reports tend to separate learning and social/emotional growth into departments and grades, the image below is a perfect reminder of “What If” in terms of learning profiles and portfolios. It’s a photograph, taken on the sixth grade annual fall outdoor education trip, and was included in this student’s portfolio.

We used this student’s portfolio during professional development and training sessions for faculty in the fall. On three separate occasions, when this student’s former teachers (from various grade levels) saw this picture, they exclaimed, “Well, that’s Josh!” His engagement, his desire to get close to the action (in this case a tiny fiddler crab), his ability to teach his peers, and his kinesthetic learning style are all so vividly reflected in this picture.

It’s a picture that wouldn’t turn up on a progress report. How could our current platforms support the data? Where would it go? How could it be accessed? Does a parent really care about a picture when there’s plenty of test data or narratives about class performance? How can a teacher be expected to do all of this — and teach?

More questions than answers, certainly. But what a shame that we often stop at the questions.

This a picture that tells of Josh’s strengths, interests, and passions. And I can imagine other pictures that tell of Josh’s weaknesses or areas where he is growing. Stories in these images. Stories told through profiles and portfolios.

And Josh himself may have a stories of 1000 words that go with every picture. Stories that give even more texture to the visual.

Why aren’t we willing to listen?


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