Yesterday I shared some of the warmer responses to the learning portfolio. Although there were a lot of positive feelings, there were a few critical responses. I’m not going to lie, as I read through them I was deflated. I was hopeful that everyone would be on board. However, that is why I asked as many students as I did. That’s the point of the blog. I want to learn and not just live in my false sense of security.
I knew not all of my students would welcome the idea right away or perhaps at all. For most of my students, they have an understanding of how things work in a school. They play school very well and making a change in the middle of the year is always jarring. Most of my students are successful on traditional metrics of success: tests, quizzes, essays, homework completion, timeliness, and participation.
Asking them to complete a learning portfolio will not be the easiest of tasks for them and it will deviat from how they have been successful in the past.
I have initially thought the learning portfolio is very pointless. It is a gigantic waste of students’ time—including my own. Why create such an elaborate website when only a handful of people will be able to read it? Although I perform well in the classroom, this is only because of my desire for perfection. Grades matter to me; actually learning the material, however—not so much. I am honored to have been selected for such a task, but rather than embellishing my bleak view, I decided to share my point of view.
After I sat with the comment, I realized I was reading something I would have written when I was in high school. If my teacher had shared this grand plan for me that required to do more work than wasn’t directly in line with getting an A or the material in the class, I would have criticized the person after I walked out of class. I would have given my friends an earful.
However, twenty years later, I realized how much I missed in my classes as a student. Sure, I was dutifull. I did everything that the teacher asked, for the most part. I was compliant and a “pleasure” to have in class. I was good at regurgitating the information back to the teacher. Even more so, I was very efficient in my completion of tasks. But being efficient sounds horrible in the name of deeper learning. I think about the connections I missed or information that was quickly forgotten because I did what I needed to complete tasks that would lead to the A. I didn’t think about what I was doing. I didn’t challenge ideas or make connections. I think of what was lost because of the actions I made.
Which gets to the learning portfolio. I want my students to gain the skills in the class but also become global citizens that are curious, work together, and become better at communication. At the same time, I want them to be able to reflect on that process and see how they have grown without needing me to tell them that. I hope that the portfolio is more meaningful in the long run than just a grade. The grade doesn’t give the whole picture. The grade in conjunction with the portfolio can allow a larger narrative to take hold that more accurately describes the growth of the student.