What did you learn in school today? This question was frequently posed to me when I was a young student. In full disclosure, I never liked answering this question, but perhaps that’s because I floundered at answering it. Traditionally, most students, and even most educational institutions, have answered this question by referencing the traditional rituals and accouterments of school – classes, essays, tests, grades, and textbooks. Most schools looking at their own internal goals and processes to prove that they and their students have been hard at work. While the “work” of school; assignments and siloed subjects are important and certainly reflect the way learning has always been organized, at CSS this year we have been asking our students a series of slightly different and thought-provoking questions.
- Which pieces of your intellectual work are you the most proud?
- How do your assignments show growth in the essential skills and capacities institutions of higher learning and employers are looking for?
- How will you use the skills and knowledge you have gained in the future?
As I’m sure many of our parents already know, CSS Middle and Upper School students have begun selecting and posting some of the required examples of their work in their Google drives as part of their first digital portfolio. Each “artifact” selected by a student captures their work in and understanding of one of the following 8 capacities:
- Analytical and Creative Thinking and Problem-solving
- Complex Communication – Oral and Written
- Leadership and Teamwork
- Digital and Quantitative Literacy
- Global Perspective
- Adaptability, Initiative, and Risk-taking
- Integrity and Ethical Decision-making
- Service to Others
Children’s School teachers are more heavily involved in student selections for the portfolios and the number of capacities and artifacts is scaled to a developmentally appropriate level.
While seven of these capacities were created by the NAIS Schools of the Future project, the eighth capacity of service to others reflects our school’s commitment to creating ethical leaders who place high value in being strong citizens in their communities.
Research on student portfolios shows that:
- Portfolios encourage students to reflect upon and “own” their own learning.
- Portfolios provide a longitudinal record of student learning for students, advisors, parents, and administrators that is more real and comprehensive than standardized testing.
- Student selection of submissions allows them to express their interests and passions.
- Portfolios create opportunities for students to engage in metacognitive thinking as each Middle and Upper School student writes a reflective essay about each piece (100 words for MS students and 250 words for US students). Please follow this link if you would like to know more about the research regarding portfolios and meaningful reflection.
- Digital portfolios are portable. They can be shared, exported, and downloaded with the supervision of a parent.
- Lastly, measuring student learning through a Digital Portfolio is something that only a progressive and independent school can do. While public schools are struggling to adapt their teaching to the PARCC test, CSS is able to connect student work to the skills and knowledge that students will need most in the future. CSS is leading the charge in digital portfolio creation among independent schools in Colorado and on a national scale we are trending with schools leading this best practice.
Middle and Upper School student portfolios are due on April 17 and as the school year comes to a close a link will be shared with parents to access your students’ work.
Connecting student learning to the real world, another way our school is preparing its students to be citizens in a dynamic world.