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Data Binders and Portfolios

Data Binders and Portfolios

Author: Jody Waltman

In this lesson, you will learn about student-centered tools that help students self-assess and monitor their own progress in learning.

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In this tutorial, we'll take a closer look at the use of portfolios and data binders. These are both student centered tools that help students to self-assess and to monitor their own progress, along their learning paths. Let's begin by looking at portfolios.

A portfolio is a collection of student work that demonstrates a selection of the students' performances over time. Portfolios are certainly very common in the visual and performing arts. The purpose of a portfolio might be to showcase artists' individual accomplishments, or on the other hand, perhaps to showcase their personal favorite pieces of art. So the use of portfolios now has been extended just into the general educational environment.

A portfolio may consist of a folder or a binder that contains not only the student's best pieces of work, but also maybe an evaluation of the student's strengths and weaknesses in each of the selections. A portfolio might also contain works in progress. For example, students might choose to include in their portfolio the various stages of completion of an essay that they've written for English class. So they might include their initial draft, an edited version, and finally, the final version that they submitted to their teacher for grading. So this can help demonstrate just the overall process of the creation of a product.

Making decisions about which items to include in a portfolio and having students evaluate their own works as part of the creation of the portfolio, really helps to promote the ideas of deeper learning, and the college and career readiness skills that we want to be focusing on with our students.

And this process also helps to support student voice and choice in the classroom. Students are very involved in choosing what they want to have included in their portfolio. They can express what items are meaningful to them, and what they think accurately represents their progress that they've made along their learning paths, as they work towards the mastery of all the various competencies that they've been working on throughout their school career.

Let's compare the portfolio idea now to the use of a data binder. So while in this era of standards-based education, many teachers have started using portfolios in order to monitor their students' progress and in order to help their students reflect and self-assess, we now also have this element of assessment and accountability that we're focusing on. And so students can use data binders to help them monitor their own progress and to encourage their own self-reflection and self-assessment. And overall, just to help them set goals for their educational experiences.

So a data binder actually takes the form of a physical binder or notebook that each individual student maintains. Items that would be included in the data binder might be the student's individual objectives or learning goals, their individual action plans, charts and graphs that demonstrate their progress, examples of formative assessments, again that help them to track their progress towards their learning goals.

So all of these elements again help students to set educational goals and to document their progress towards meeting those goals that they've set. We really do want students to be writing their own learning goals and taking ownership of their own learning. This can be a very empowering process for students because the accountability for the learning is being transferred to the students. As they collect all of this information that they include in their data binders, students are working to provide evidence of their own learning and to provide evidence of the progress that they're making on the competencies and on the standards that are identified.

An interesting way to use these data binders, actually, is not only just to provide feedback to students, but also to share this information with parents, as a way to begin a discussion about students' progress towards meeting their learning goals. Because students are the ones who are putting this information together, this provides a great jumping off point for students to inform their parents about their own progress, rather than the teacher just being the one doing all of the talking and providing all of the information.

So now it's your turn to stop and reflect. If you have implemented data binders or portfolios in the past, take some time to reflect on how you implemented these tools. Were students effectively using data binders or portfolios to increase their ownership of their own learning?

If you don't have experience with data binders or portfolios, consider whether either of these options might be a good fit for you and your students.

For more information on how to apply what you learned in this video, please view the additional resources section that accompanies this video presentation. The additional resources section includes hyperlinks useful for applications of the course material, including a brief description of each resource. Thanks for watching. Have a great day.

Notes on "Data Binders and Portfolios"

(00:00 - 01:29) Portfolios

(01:30 - 02:14) Portfolios & CCR/Deeper Learning

(02:15 - 03:29) Data Binders

(03:30 - 04:25) Student Ownership in Data Binders

(04:26 - 05:13) Stop and Reflect

Additional Resources

Montgomery County Public Schools: Quality Tools for the Classroom

Scroll down to click on templates for data tracking charts to use with the whole class or with individual students as part of their data binders.

Ms. Noonan: Making Students into Better Writers

This Teaching Channel video is a great example of the use of a portfolio to increase student ownership and achievement.