Tuesday, November 10, 2015


Over our recent break here in Korea our Early Years Coordinator at BHA attended a workshop with Fiona Zinn that explored the documentation of student learning. Our Early Years program is inspired by the Reggio approach and considers documenting student learning to be a key pillar of this. Laura returned from the workshop full of ideas that she wants to implement with the team and today she shared some of these with the specialist teachers about how we can develop the framework of our portfolios.

We consider the use of portfolios to be an important element of our assessed curriculum. They provide students and parents with valuable information on progress, feedback and an opportunity for reflection. As the IB states in Making the PYP Happen...'a portfolio is a celebration of an active mind at work. It provides a picture of each student’s progress and development over a period of time both as individual and group learners. It enables students to reflect with teachers, parents and peers in order to identify their strengths and growth as well as areas for improvement, and then to set individual goals and establish teaching and learning plans.' (pg. 50)

To develop our approach to portfolios, Laura spoke about framing them around three areas:

(1) The voice of the teacher - this could come in an explanation of the task that the students engaged in. It could also discuss the type of play that occurred during the task. This section might have more 'teacher talk' as the purpose is unpacked.

(2) The voice of the student - this section could include photos or videos of the students. An opportunity to record a reflection would also be represented here. The opportunities are vast in this section as they allow for student input into the documentation. What ownership does the student have over the learning in the sample? How are they reflected in the work?

(3) Analysis of learning - this section highlights  the skills, knowledge and conceptual understandings that are addressed in the learning experience. How are the students achieving this?

I think this is a nice framework to reference when we think about developing portfolio pieces. There is plenty of scope for creativity in the way that this is interpreted, however, the focus is firmly on the student and the learning. Laura also lead the discussion around aspects such as graphics, colours and fonts. Her explanation here was that the colour should come from the students themselves instead of from things such as banners, borders and zany fonts. We also discussed the use of images as a form of communication, especially considering that 90% of our student and parent population do not understand English easily yet.

This was a great opening discussion and one that I look forward to continuing with the team as we unpack our beliefs and understandings regarding documentation. I'm hopeful that the rest of the Junior School will be inspired by the work of this group.

Photo Credit: cambodia4kidsorg via Compfight cc