Core understandings in the work of Michigan Portfolios research group
I want to call your attention to the work of educators labeled “Portfolio Group” on this website. This is a team of teacher researchers revising their classrooms on behalf of portfolio and digital portfolio writing assessment. Right now eighth grade teacher Jessica Cleland has posted the goals of her research and also some student portfolio examples. Other teacher researchers and their student portfolios will soon appear. I believe this portfolio assessment research by teachers can be a powerful guide for us all.
Understanding the power of portfolios:
With respect to our work in this Michigan Portfolios Teacher Research Group:
- We understand that portfolio assessment can close the loop of workshop practice in a positive way by combining successful instruction with authentic assessment for student work.
- We realize that in the U. S. today assessment is “the tail that wags the dog” of education overall. Portfolios can help us wag the dog toward humane and productive educational practices.
- We are aware that appropriate authentic assessment awakens us:
- To what students are actually achieving
- To what students need as learners
Working from the right frame:
In his recent book Finnish Lessons Pasi Sahlberg clarifies that standards and tests are not the “right frame” for describing successful teaching and learning. Instead, if we were to learn from the high achievement of Finland’s students we would begin by feeding the hungry and housing the homeless. Our society has misconstrued “free enterprise” as a command to not help others. As a result more than 25 per cent of U. S. children are facing what the Children’s Defense Fund calls “food insecurity.” And, in this richest nation in the history of the planet our largest homeless populations are women and children. Humane thinkers on education would begin by meeting these needs.
Learning further from Finland, we would devote ourselves to offering engaging learning opportunities and to building a supportive platform for learning under all students rather than being primarily concerned to pressure and judge them.
Portfolios are one of the educational tools that can take us in this direction. Portfolios of student writing construct a potential positive environment in which teacher and peers can coach writing more effectively and in which student growth can be noticed and supported over time.