How do you measure growth?

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Since our F2F session at Mars a few weeks ago, I’ve been thinking about how my action plan can be refined and refocused.  I had many opportunities to engage in meaningful conversations that helped me to revise and redirect my efforts.  Two of these conversations stand out as they helped to foster meaningful connections with the new direction of my action plan.

During our morning coffee break, I had an energizing conversation with Ed Hitchcock who shared his work and insights on Standards Based Grading.  We spoke about his ongoing efforts to find meaningful measures for feedback and how standards based grading is helping him to provide accurate and purposeful data of student learning over time.  Watching Ed’s amazing SBG video helped me to get a full sense of the scope of his project – and passion – in assessment.  Thanks to Ed, I have been prompted to specifically consider how standards based grading can play a role in my action plan around effective use of e-portfolios as a tool to measure learning over time.  I recognize that this application will extend beyond the scope of my action plan (…at least in the year 1 model).   This conversation and my subsequent learning has helped to define a key part of the purpose behind my action plan on e-portfolios as a tool to measure growth and progress over time.

Around the afternoon schedule of sessions, I had a meaningful conversations with Leslie McBeth.  Her action plan is focused on creating a PLN using online tools.  Leslie’s energy and enthusiasm for expanding her personal learning network as a resource to promote professional conversation as part of a larger teaching team is an inspiration.  In speaking with Leslie, I was prompted to consider how the different tools and resources of a PLN can support the teachers who are working with e-portfolios as part of the pilot project at Trafalgar this year.  How can I use  face-to-face and virtual support to encourage my colleagues as we engage in this exercise to measure learning over time?


These conversations – and lots of reading of Cohort21 Blogs – have helped me to reframe my action plan, beginning with a clarification of the goals for this project. My action plan will examine how digital portfolios can be used to measure learning over time.  Given that our e-portfolio pilot at Trafalgar is centred around specific learning skills in the middle school, I will examine how these skills – as standards of growth – can be measured over time.   In order to measure this progress, we have asked students to gather artefacts of their learning in subject areas, and connect them with one or more learning skills.  A reflection —  in any form that the student chooses, from written to audio or visual form — is included with each artefact.  One key goal of this pilot is to gather data on how these steps encourage students to focus on process as well as skills involved in their learning experience.

There will be many new questions that arise as this pilot progresses, from both the student and teacher perspective.  I look forward to hearing from the girls as they share their learning and feedback on e-portfolios as a tool to measure progress in their learning skills.  I also look forward to hearing your thoughts around the role of PLN’s and SBG as tools that contribute to the success of e-portfolios as a teaching and learning model.

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11 comments to “How do you measure growth?”
  1. Hi Leslie,

    I agree that the conversations and collaboration are a key part of the Cohort 21 experience! I am thankful for meeting so many engaged educators who are working to make a difference in how technology and teaching takes place at their schools.

    In terms of motivating students, it seems that the technology and creativity pieces have been significant forces in motivating the girls at Trafalgar to engage in this reflection process. Given that each student has their own e-portfolio site (using Google Sites as our platform), the girls are able to make it into a reflection of their personality and learning style. Giving the girls the freedom to decide the format of most reflection artifacts has also been a significant piece in the motivation process. Unless required by a teacher, the students are free to select a learning piece and a method for reflection that allows them to demonstrate meaningful connections to the learning skills we are using as the overall framework. I have also stressed in working with both students and teachers that the portfolio is a collection of growth and change over time, and the girls are working on what this looks like in their subject areas. I will have more to share in my next blog post…. still a work in progress at this point in time.

    I’d love to chat more about what you are doing too. How is your action plan unfolding?

    Thanks for your ongoing support. Looking forward to chatting again soon!

  2. Hi Christina,
    It’s true that these ad hoc conversations can be the most enriching part of the Cohort 21 experience. Everyone has so much to offer and in a space where all are willing to share ideas generously, good things always happen. I’m glad that our conversation sparked bigger ideas for you.

    I’m curious to find how you are able to motivate students to reflect. For me, this is always a big challenge with portfolios. Students don’t always see the value in reflecting on what they have done (although it is an important part of the learning process and a great way to build in “assessment as learning”) and I would love to hear your strategies to encourage students to think about their portfolios as part of their learning process, rather than something after-the-fact.

    Looking forward to hearing how this plays out in your classroom!

  3. This is a great idea, @cschindler – best of luck with the implementation. I really enjoyed my afternoon coffee break with @ehitchcock as well – definitely a ripple effect, Ed! – this idea of standards based grading has made me consider alterations to what our school is exploring for next year’s STEM cohort of Gr. 11 students. It’s not a formal part of my action plan, but I am also excited to see where you end up with your digital portfolio goal, especially as I feel like by focusing my action plan (blog to come soon) on fostering and developing a growth mindset within my colleagues, a logical follow-up to that shift may include both standards based grading and digital portfolios. We should chat at some point!
    Good luck with your next steps!

    • Hi Elissa,

      Glad to hear you are making progress with all of the ideas that swirl after each F2F session — there is so much food for thought! I’d love to chat further about the standards based grading and the portfolio piece. In terms of my action plan, I’m working with learning skills as my standards as the scope of these tools fit the pilot of the e-portfolios in Grade 5-8. It seems that the growth in student understanding of the reflection process has been one of the biggest learning experiences so far. The girls are really growing to understand how their personal reflection process can impact their learning experience and overall growth as a student. I’ve also been working with mindset as a component of this reflection process so the two pieces are coming together nicely.

      I’d love to hear more about what you are up to with your plan. Let me know if I can help in your thinking or action 🙂
      Have a great break,

    • Hi Justin,

      Thanks for our great conversation at the 3rd face 2 face session. Your thoughts and suggestions were truly helpful! The e-portfolios are underway in Grades 5-8 and the girls are loving the technology piece in the program. They are amazing at adapting and growing with a new tech tool and it is wonderful to see their engagement. I was interviewing a few students last week for some data on the mid-point in this process, and one student shared with me that she loves the ability to make her reflections a personalized piece of her own digital space (e-portfolio). As I shared with Celeste, the girls are truly engaged in the reflection process as they are able to select examples and make connections in a manner that reflects their own learning style and experience. I’m working on my next blog post with more information about the student experience thus far. In terms of the teacher perspective, they are enjoying the organization of all of this material and how it is accessible at any point in the learning process. All in all, things are going well. There are always a few road bumps along the way, but we’re moving forward!

      Thanks again for your ongoing support and encouragement!

  4. Hi Christina,

    I’m super excited to keep reading your progress and growth towards these action plan goals. I too was incredibly inspired by @ehitchcock‘s video and so I’m really looking forward to seeing how these manifests in your portfolio work.

    What platform are you using with the portfolios? I’m curious to see what else people are working with out there (I’m experimenting with Blogfolio this year) and their feedback to help me plan for next year.

    Also, have you launched this with your students yet? This might be a great project for one of the two protocols we’re going to run with the Cohort. Let me know if you are interested!

    • Hi Celeste,

      Thanks for your feedback. We are using Google Sites as our e-portfolio platform. We began by creating a template in partnership with the teachers and then we shared that to the students via. Hapara. The girls have the ability to give their e-portfolio a personal feel through selecting their own theme and creating their “Who am I” homepage. (NOTE: this is a closed site for use only within the school domain). We have launched this e-portfolio project with the Grade 5-8’s this year and we began in December. Each student is asked to gather artifacts that demonstrate their growth and learning for specific learning skills (such as communication, teamwork, organization), and they will continue to document their progress in each area over the remaining months of the school year. This is occurring for each course the student is taking so that trends and next steps can be identified on a general as well as specific basis.

      One of my favourite parts of this action plan so far is how the girls have embraced the concept of an artifact and have chosen to include everything from writing pieces and photographs of their work to movies of them solving a learning challenge or an audio recording of their performance. These examples illustrate that the girls are starting to make meaningful connections between the artifact and the reflection components in their learning pathway. I do believe that the student ownership of (most) choices for learning artifacts is a significant component of the buy-in and commitment for regular completion of this task. I will have more on this in my next blog post.

      I’d love to hear more about the protocols for the Cohort next year as I am definitely interested — I’d love to participate! Let me know more when you can.
      Have a great break!

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