Portfolio (P. Schmid-Riggins)

June 15, 2010

Petra Schmid-Riggins

Portfolios

In order to be successful in a foreign school setting, ELLs need to develop self-regulated learning skills and strategies. ELLs need to focus on goal setting, strategy use, and self-evaluation through instruction and modeling. Self-regulation is necessary in order to be successful while pursuing an education and to be prepared when entering the workforce. The majority of ELLs are accustomed to explicit instruction which is teacher-centered and focuses on helping students learn basic skills and information through a step-by-step format. Working portfolios in conjunction with explicit instruction are suggested to encourage students to develop the skills as self-regulated learners. The working portfolio consists of intentional collections of all documents created by the student. Throughout the school year or semester, the student gathers documents from first thoughts to final best effort examples. Hereby demonstrating his/her levels of achievement, skills acquisition, and how his/her performance/academic ability improved over time. Each student can self assess personal effort and time management.

Many teachers argue that a problem exists with respect to skill development, organization, and self-regulation among adolescents. Some schools begin to implement programs like AVID to foster self-regulation among adolescents. Neither are self-regulation skills taught and reinforced in content programs, nor are emphasis placed on promoting adolescent responsibility to self-direct such skills. According to social cognitive theories, the responsibility for learning lies with the learner.  Marzano (2001) pointed out that educators must design strategies to support students meta-cognitively, motivationally, and behaviorally as active learners and active knowledge seekers. Juniewicz (2003) emphasized that working portfolios can serve as a framework for students to record academic and social growth over time, organize strategies, and acquire the ability to exercise personal responsibility. Teachers often witness that students feel overwhelmed and stop working once they perceive a task to challenging or incomprehensible. This holds especially true for students who are not intrinsically motivated. Management of instruction and working portfolios are functional strategies to reduce the perception of cognitive overload and teach self-regulation skills. According to Gied (1999), the frontal lobe growth of the brain begins to peak at approximately age 12 which means at age 12, the student is equipped with frontal-lobe function to self-regulate.  This information should be encouraging for teachers since ELLs attending high school are equipped with self-regulation skills; thus practice and enforcement through explicit instruction and working portfolios is essential for academic success.

Marzano (2001) emphasized that working portfolios will prove important to adolescents and teachers as students become increasingly capable of organizing their materials and producing quality examples of their learning. Using working portfolios is empowering students while improving the learning environment. When teaching ELLs it is necessary to individualize instruction since language acquisition skills vary. Working portfolios provide the framework for individualizing instruction for the individual student based on individual learning style, multiple intelligences, socio-cultural background, special needs, and proficiencies. Working portfolio also support the teacher in relating to diverse student populations, assessing and remediating deficient skills, and developing student-specific interventions.

Most teachers would agree that a correlation exists between explicit instruction and a students’ ability to apply self-regulation skills and strategies. For instance, during explicit instruction, the teacher models a variety of graphic organizers, active reading notation, personal study-environment organization, working portfolio organization, and self-assessment strategies. Most likely students will begin incorporating strategies once they are practiced with support over an extended period of time. As teachers continue to enforce the working portfolio, students will prepare for class activities and store work for future evaluation without being directed by the teacher. Through the working portfolio the students gain a clear and consistent understanding how they progress and can review and assess individual progress. Explicit teaching to self-regulate leads to student empowerment and increases the desire to further one’s education. Self-regulation is necessary; thus each individual can keep inner order, organize actions toward goals, obey laws, and internalize moral and competent behavior to meaningfully contribute to society.

In conclusion, working portfolios enable students to practice skills and strategies leading to improved academic performance. Working portfolios enable teachers to monitor expectations and accommodate and modify instructions. Working portfolios are also an accessible source of information for parents. In official and unofficial meetings, the working portfolio represents the student’s growth and areas which need to be improved.

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