I identify with Konrad Glogowski and his quest to move theory into practice. His latest post, Readerly Comments - Part II, really struck this whole idea home for me.
"Working on my thesis and keeping this blog has had a strong impact on who I am as an educator. But I do not want to operate in the realm of theory all the time. I needed to test myself." (Readerly Comments - Part II, Glogowski.)
Blogging has had a deep impact on my teaching as well. It’s introduced me to how other people do things in their classrooms, it’s dropped me into powerful conversations that I would never have had access to, it’s caused me to think about things that I would have never thought about on my own, and most valuable of all, blogging has placed me inside a vibrant community of teachers and thinkers.
I’ve been blogging for almost a year now. I can honestly say that I’ve learned more about the art of teaching and myself during this year than all my six years of ESL teaching without blogging combined.
One of the things that I am learning a lot about are portfolios. (Again, before blogging I didn’t have a clue about them…) I think portfolios are fascinating, and offer a viable alternative to testing and examinations.
I’ve read about portfolios. I’ve explored them. I’ve written about them. I’ve advocated for their use, but I’ve never actually been able to USE one. I’ve been stuck in theory.
But stuck no longer. I’ve been given an advanced level group, my old legal English group again, and I’ve decided to try and put my theoretical knowledge of portfolios to practice.
Blogging and thinking about things is one thing, actually DOING those things is quite another animal!
Since my group started up a few days ago, I’ve found myself in a state of block. I’ve been really excited about the idea of employing portfolios with my class, but when it actually came to deployment …well it’s been a lot more challanging than I had expected.
Here are a few of the things I’ve been working through:
1. Selling it to the students: Teaching portfolios.
2. Selling the idea that language learners can help themselves, and most of the work of language learning should happen OUTSIDE the class.
3. How do you decide what goes in a portfolio?
4. Where should the portfolio live? Should it be digital or paper based? If it’s digital, what do you do with those who fear tech?
5. How do you evaluate a portfolio?
And those are just a few of the things that have been giving me a bumpy ride. But you know what? I was reflecting on the whole thing during thismorning’s commute from class to our offices, and I found myself feeling a rush. A fresh motivation, and sense of aliveness around what I was doing.
The concepts around portfolios that I’ve only been thinking about, have taken on brand new meaning as I try to deploy into reality.
I can see why portfolios can so easily become a boxy thing, a place controlled by the institution vs. a messy learning environment controlled by the student.
This post feels like it should go on to deliver a polished conclusion, where I share how I’ve figured the whole thing out, and share how my successfully deployed portfolio system has dramatically enhanced my student’s language learning.
But I can’t do that. More than anything, this is a request for help. What have you done? How have you used portfolios? How have you "sold" the idea to your students?
I’m still figuring it all out, and loving the process of stepping out of theory. What do you think?