Portfolio Instruction Offers Solutions to Remote Learning
Portfolios that track the changes students make to their work solve many headaches that teachers face.
One of the approaches to assessment that has transferred beautifully to remote learning has been process portfolios. With the increased use of digital materials, portfolios that track the changes students make to their work solve many of the headaches that teachers have faced. In a classic fashion, a unit can be set up to cover the main concepts as a class, and also include an independent application of the information that can be performed by each student. Or, a process portfolio can be used as an individual assignment that matures as the student’s knowledge develops.
The first step is to embrace student-centered activities. If assignments completed individually are shared either in a synchronous class or an asynchronous class, students have an opportunity for increasing their communication skills in self-structured time together. The teacher’s role shifts to providing tasks having clear goals that can be accomplished primarily in small groups.
- Teacher planning focuses on time management, scaffolding activities for support, checking in with individuals, and giving encouragement.
- Class time is teacher-structured, but student-led.
- Students take on the work of learning while the teacher takes on the work of guiding.
- Purposeful time in small groups encourages social-emotional growth and opportunities to build friendships.
Flexibility of Materials
Flexibility of materials can provide equal access to learning even with patchy attendance. With students recording their ideas and then reflecting on those ideas at regular intervals, the process portfolio works equally well offline as online. Students start with what they know and work their way toward creating depth and detail as they are exposed to additional information.
- Students can choose the material they use to complete assignments according to what is available to them.
- Learning is not inhibited by technology or a student’s preferred modality.
- Content and skills are defined by the teacher, but the application of content and skills is guided by each student’s curiosity and interests.
- Students are empowered to define how the content intersects with their lives.
- Depth and complexity are determined by the student or the group, so differentiation occurs naturally.
Social and Emotional Interactions
Strategically built class time encourages social and emotional interactions. Ideas in a process portfolio are meant to be reviewed and revised, but input is needed to know what is unclear, what needs greater detail, or where more research is necessary. Repeatedly breaking students into small groups to conduct peer reviews allows them to see what others have accomplished with the same parameters. If groups are mixing regularly, students are exposed to a variety of applications that reinforce the central concepts.
- Peer reviews occur regularly, giving students structured time together.
- Students build relationships by sharing their work at each step.
- During sharing events, students learn to identify the same skills and concepts they have grappled with individually.
- Comments by peers create a visible document of what the audience can identify and how much they understand.
- After viewing the work of peers, students have the insight for deeper self-reflection on their own work.
Portfolios make assessment continuous, avoiding grading pitfalls. Spotty attendance has plagued classrooms during remote instruction, and problems caused by missing assignments have been tricky to navigate. Process portfolios allow each assignment to be a potential assessment rather than placing all the value on the final product. By documenting advice given as feedback to peers and maintaining a reflection log, teachers are able to see into the minds of their students as ideas develop even if the teachers are not present when insights are shared.
Equity in assessment is achieved with rubrics that grade the development of skills, depth of understanding, and critical thinking.
- Students are graded on the quality and accuracy of the feedback they give their peers, as it reflects their understanding of shared concepts and skills.
- Insights and understanding increase after exposure to the work of peers.
- Self-reflections and explanations make thinking visible.
- Student revisions reveal the progression of new understandings.
- Portfolios allow assessments to be based on progress and the application of information rather than trying to find a way to make traditional testing work this year.
Digital Resources for Remote Labs
A specialist is available to speak with you about the programs and how you can provide vigorous, hands-on, standards-based biology and chemistry labs no matter the scheduling model.
Additional Reading: Webinar: Making Thinking Visible
About the Author
Kristen Dotti is the CEO of Catalyst Learning Curricula, a company that provides comprehensive, student-centered lesson plans to teachers of college, high school, and middle school science. Ms. Dotti is a remote learning consultant to Carolina Biological Supply Company.