Examining Learning

It is portfolio time again for the freshman. I decided to structure the cover letters a bit differently for this unit. Instead of telling them what concepts to address, I left it open-ended. The instructions were to write a cover letter that tells what you’ve learned in this unit, to explain how you learned it, and to justify how each piece (or pieces) of work included represent each concept.

It was interesting to watch them as they worked on this in class today. About half of the class chose to work in groups while the others wanted to work alone. I watched one girl as she contemplated which assignments to include. She was examining two assignments and analyzing what she wrote on each. She kept moving back and forth between the text and her papers, comparing the questions asked and her responses. I’m looking forward to reading her work.

Those working in groups brainstormed lists of topics we’ve covered, debated which assignment addressed which topic, and offered suggestions to each other on what had been written already.

Though there were a few who really struggled without step-by-step directions:

How long does my letter need to be?
However long it takes you to explain what you’ve learned and how you learned it.

How many assignments should I include?
As many as you need to demonstrate what you’ve learned.

What did I learn in this unit?
That is a great question. What have you learned?

One student announced proudly announced he was done and that he had included only two assignments. Luckily another student saved me, “We’ve been doing this unit for six weeks. You’ve only learned TWO THINGS?” He quietly went back to work.

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3 Responses to Examining Learning

  1. Sarah says:

    Letting the preparation questions begin…

    I’m trying to figure out where all my grades will be coming from this year. Think I’ll stick to my version of Dan’s method for quizzes and tests, but am debating whether/how to do notebooks* or portfolios or something else.

    I remembered that you did portfolios with some of your classes. How did the process work for you? What were you looking for? Was it valuable for your students? Are you going to be able to continue it next year?

    Thanks for any thoughts you have!

    *Links included not because you need them now so much as because I hate finding a new blog, reading comments, and not having a clue what people are talking about. And my thoughts are on others’ blogs.

  2. Jackie says:

    I liked the portfolios at the end of each unit. I also liked having it open ended (you tell me what you learned). Some of the other teachers gave the students a list of what should be in the portfolio.

    What was I looking for? I was looking to see if the students had made connections among the big ideas of the unit (connection between a graph, an equation, and a table of values), I also looked for understanding of key concepts (solving a system by graphing).

    Another aspect I liked was the personal growth letter (explain your growth as a learner). There were many, many very reflective letters (also another nice opportunity for those whose strenght is writing).

    Will I use them next year? *Heavy sigh* As a department, we used to keep the students portfolios from year to year and pass them on to the next math teacher. It became a logistical mess. I am still going to use portfolios, but I’ll have to give them to the students to keep over the summer. Yeah…

  3. Sarah says:

    Thanks for the thoughts Jackie. I’m still puzzling over what I’ll do. As a student who moved around, I hated the work that we turned in that was supposed to follow us until graduation, but never did. I like the idea of having the completely personalized “What I Learned” file that I could keep after the class was over. (Of course, I’m the person who still has all of my notes from high school.)

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