How many of your schools have a portfolio process? Something where the students compile their work throughout the year and present pieces which demonstrate growth in certain areas? I bet those of you that do, also have student-led conferences when the students share their work from their portfolio with their parents. Now are those portfolios, by any chance, all set up in the same format? Maybe a binder of some sort? And, for those of you that follow this type of structure, how many of your students feel that this is an authentic, relevant way to share their work? How many of them keep their portfolios from year to year? How many of them even know why they’re creating a portfolio?

Now, I’m not critiquing student-led conferences or portfolios. I love that students are expected to share their growth with their parents and I know portfolios are a good thing. I have one, well two. I like having all of my work compiled in one place so that I can share it with others, and if I had more time, I would do more reflecting on what I’ve done. But I chose how I set up my portfolio. I chose the format, the content, the tools. What happens when all students are forced to present their work in the same way?

Our students must present their portfolio work in a 2-inch, 2-ring, white binder with the see through cover. They can decorate the cover and choose which pieces of work to go inside, but that’s about it (although as the IT teacher, I’m allowed the special privilege of having my students create an electronic portfolio – which they then must burn onto a CD to put into the binder). Everyone fits into a white, 2-ring binder, right? Just like Will’s family gets such great use out of the weekly Friday Folder…

So, I mentioned in a faculty meeting that a white binder full of paper may not be the most authentic way for our students to share their achievements with their parents. In order for our students to feel empowered, to really relate to, and understand the process of, creating a portfolio, perhaps they might enjoy presenting it in a different format? Perhaps, even, a format of their choosing?

The next day I shared this story with my homeroom class. I was hoping to hear some of their ideas for how they might want to present their portfolios. However, one of my most wonderful students carefully explained to me that the reason we have the binders is to prepare students for job interviews. You know, when they go to an employer with their paper resume and samples of their paper work in a binder.

She was so enthusiastic about this “simulation of real life” that I hated to burst her bubble when I explained that I have gotten all of my jobs through my electronic presence – my blogs, my websites, etc.

I asked her: “if I was just invited to interview for my new job as a result of my professional blog demonstrating my skills, mind-set, and experience; how impressed do you think an employer will be when – 10 years from now – you show up with a binder?”

And the light-bulb goes on.

Is anyone else struggling with this one-size-fits all circa 1988 portfolio issue? If not, what kind of authentic methods do you use to help your students simulate the “real world”?

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5 thoughts on “Simulating the "Real World"

  1. Like you, we have to present 2 years worth of work, more for the external verifier (EV) than anyone else. These monster portfolios then sit stored in a dimly lit rooms only to be retreieved by the most efficient of students heading off to higher education. If the work was presented in another format, how would all the staff mark the work and what would the EV think? Well, I might just find out this year!

  2. As your title suggests, I’m always learning when I come here.

    My last school had the EXACT model you are talking about. (Maybe it’s a KL thing!) What was the reaction at your faculty meeting when you brought it up?

    Do administrators/teachers see places like mySpace as online portfolios of interests that kids are making? Can something like that (dynamic, engaging, authentic to their lives) be applied to showcase student work and growth? Can we convince them of this?

  3. Kristian,

    I’d love to hear what you end up changing about your portfolio process. Keep me posted :)


    That title is about me always learning – I’m so flattered that you are learning too!

    I bet our process is modeled after yours considering quite a few of our staff used to work at ISKL….

    The faculty were very receptive and excited about the concept when I brought it up. They can clearly see the need for a more authentic process. Unfortunately, it didn’t go much farther than those “yeah, we need that” kind of comments. However, I do think we can convince admin and other teachers that technology-based tools are an excellent vehicle for presenting portfolios, but I think it takes a very open-minded, tech-aware, forward-thinking staff and some discussion of what is possible. I think sharing real world experiences would be a good place to start. Maybe a comparison of a “typical” portfolio and a modernized portfolio could kick start a discussion?

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