Note: Joanne's post for Lesson 3 is being revised. She is unable to post on the blog, so will be sending it to me and I will post it. That will make the Lesson 4 post appear to have been completed prior to Lesson 3, but that's not the case.
Interestingly, the issue of chronology is one we will need to examine more closely as a school, depending on what it is we are expecting the ePortfolios to document. This week's readings/videos and supplemental materials cover a huge array of issues ranging from the necessity of an entire school adopting the reflective approach (from student to HOS) to selecting age-appropriate tools for assessment. Parsing through the plethora of resources to find what fits our situation reflects the microcosm of the web in general. Wading through all that is available is a complex and time consuming effort, albeit a necessary one. In order for us as a team to best design an effective implementation, we need to slow down and do our own reflecting.
Over the past several years, the overarching culture of the school seems to have been in transition. As subject area teams re-evaluate curriculum content and delivery methods, the administrative team is directing the "ship" to navigate new waters that are project based, student centered, and technologically advanced. Pappas' Taxonomy of Reflection reminds that each of us, at all levels, must be engaged in the reflective process for the effectiveness of meta-cognition to guide us. We must be constantly stepping back to evaluate and assess whether what WE'RE doing is providing effective learning experiences and opportunities. Dr. Arthur Ellis, in his outstanding lecture on reflective learning, reminds us that modeling the behavior is more critical than implementation in the classroom. Ellis provides excellent strategies for teachers to begin transitioning from grade-based assessments to opportunities for regular engagement with meta-cognition. Perhaps the most valuable "side-effect" of reflection is setting up opportunities for low-achievers to become self-motivated high-achievers. The psychological make-up of our students is much too complex to simply categorize them into Dweck's "Mindsets" and hope to change their outlook. Parental pressures for higher education based on test results and grades, developmental differences, anxiety levels all impact a student's ability to have a growth mindset. Reflective strategies, however, enable us to get a foothold, especially in the middle grade years when the expectations for success become significantly more stringent.
To direct our implementation, we might wish to consider a slightly different model of the feedback cycle. While the "Feed up/Feed back/Feed Forward" provides the teacher with a means of evaluating the effectiveness of the required curriculum and delivery, it is more prudent to consider a two-tiered reflection cycle from the student's point of view. Students continue to learn new content before existing information might be mastered. Understanding occurs at multiple times throughout the chronologically based sequence. In fact, a student of mine recently remarked that an "Aha!" moment occurred for her three months after the completion of a unit of content. Such a delay is perfectly acceptable, and reflects the brain growth and development of that particular child. As such, our reflective opportunities cannot be limited to regularly scheduled interludes. It is the act of reflecting that we want to develop, not the timing, although for some teachers carefully structured reflection will be a necessity for both comfort in the "new" and creation of a new style/habit of instruction. Please see Micro/Macro.(Click to follow link which opens in a new window.)
Dr. Ellis also clarifies that reflection is possible at any age level. The differences will lie merely in the method of information-gathering. Documentation of the reflective process should be sampled in both video/audio and written (blog)/form formats, especially as students develop greater skills for written expression. These reflective pieces will help students determine how they best process information, identify their inherent strengths and weaknesses, and set personal goals. Teachers and administrators must also engage in timely self-reflection, accessible to the students so they can mirror by example until the process becomes clear to them. I believe that for us, the Blackstone Valley Portfolio Handbook is TOO structured. As indicated on our Team Planning Document, grade levels will need to provide input into the appropriate artifacts and level of reflection. Portfolio Reflection by Artifact is an outstanding source for fifth grade through middle school as it enables the student to see the culmination of knowledge acquisition rendered visible through a subject-area project. The six opportunities for reflection provided by Ellis should be utilized in some form by all teachers on a regular basis. Critical, as Ellis points out, is the feedback loop the teacher must provide. These strategies provide a form of scaffolding on the content (micro) level, while the on-line ePortfolio itself will provide reflection on the macro level. Again, this concept mirrors the idea that multiple levels of reflective cycle happen simultaneously.
As a few of our teachers are already experimenting with ePortfolios on different grade levels, we have a "casual" implementation that will allow us to review at the end of the school year what worked individually so we can craft a school-wide implementation for 2014-2015. Reflection is absolutely critical both for us at the macro level, and for the students so they can see the benefits of life-long curiosity and love of learning.