The portfolio idea first came when I heard Olga Esteve mention it back in 2004. Her ideas on teaching and how reflection played a vital role to pursue change and innovation in our classes had a great, great impact on me.
So I started working. Here were our first attempts at learner reflection back in 2005!:
Students interest and marvelous output stirred our motivation to pursue this issue further. We had the intuition we were on the right track, a new one…
So we wrote down a project, a framework to use ICT in tasks supported by the Education Department in Catalonia. At the beginning it was NOT EASY, yet motivation and a certain amount of faith kept us going, despite the fact that not all students liked the change at the beginning… Some students are terribly conservative when it comes down to learning and refuse any “innovation”, in particular, we noticed, two types:
The bright ones highly concerned about the mark: The new method caused them some insecurity at first. If they got the expected mark, problem solved… However, if they didn’t… They resented the whole project. Luckily, there were very few of those…
And the second group are the “lazy/I can’t be bothered” ones… Too much work required. They preferred the good old grammar which they simply ignored or already knew but at least they weren’t required any personal involvement such as class presentations in front of their peers or continuous work on the blog…
At the end of the first year my colleague Lourdes and I were on cloud nine!! Brilliant tasks and excellent results, higher than expected… in particular low level students, who performed far better and generally speaking, more students passed. The wide range of activities enabled students to find some which the could do better than others and make up for their weaker points. Here is our other blog: batxilleratportfolios.blogspot.com
So in the second year, the project simply flowed… as if taken for granted. Familiarity breeds contempt??! Modelling from older peers turned out to be a high external motivator for most students. In this case, all the initial doubts vanished and a new generation came in much fonder of the project and grateful to get rid of some of the grammar lessons and do more practical, real-like work… They were far better at self-organizing and managing their work and more ict-prone… every year more… And our prize as teachers came with the Selectivitat (University entry exam in Spain) results: a 7,17 average mark, higher than the 5,9 average mark for English in Catalonia. We were really proud of our first “project generation, the pioneers.”
In the third year, always trying to improve, we thought of a more open framework for second batxillerat based around tasks and competencies. No more traditional textbook. Part of the course is devoted to Selectivitat exam preparation but the other is a new experiment within the project… Lourdes Roviras is the coordinator : “No textbook for 2 bat”. Here is her blog: http://2ndbatxilleratportfolio.blogspot.com/
June 2009: The eportfolio innovation project is over. What are our impressions?
To start with, no student has failed in English.here are the results for the PAAU (Access to University exams) in English:
Secondly, we asked our students to give us their insights into the project anonymously.
Here are some of the students’ comments
“I think that I’ve learn more English during this year than during the four courses of ESO! So in my opinion this project we are in is really usefull for us in order to improve our English although we usually complain about the amounts of work. However, in the end we realize that it been worth.” (first year in the project)
“I think that the project is a good idea. If I compare with what we did in 4th of ESO, we learnt much more this year! I believe it’s a good way of learning because it’s variable and we do lots of different things. It helps us to become more fluent and have a better vocabluary and general comprehension.
I look forward to next year’s English classes!” (first year in the project)
“In general it has been very useful. All the things we have to do in the portfolio are useful to improve a lot our level of english.”
” It’s evident that all the work we’ve made this two years have been very useful in my case. I think that we learned to use the computer with the english language. And also because we can see the evolution between the first days we start the blogs and portfolios and it state now. ”
“The project isn’t bad but it’s lot of work also. I think it helps to us to start working seriously”
“I consider the English subject to be one that prepares you best, that is to say you work (because you have to work a lot with blogs and portfolios) and finally you can see your development in the language. To do oral presentations makes us more confident in ourselves, not only in front of the class, but also in the research project presentation and other oral presentations (I realized last Easter when I had to do an oral presentation for a course and it was no problem for me.) In my opinion blogs and eportfolios should be assessed as they have been, as they require more work than an exam and this work does help students see their progress during these two years in batxillerat.” (translated from Catalan)
Some negative comments to learn from:
“I think this project is very interesting and a more entertaining way to learn English but I also think that the portfolio part is not really useful, just a waste of time because nobody really goes to see the others’ portfolios because they are too busy doing the homework and other subjects work. And for people who are not good with computers this is a greater waste of time” (translated from Catalan)
“The work on the blog has results but the work on the portfolio is just posting the work already done on the internet. ”
(translated from Catalan)
“This project follows the line of all education system: Work is more valued than knowledge. It’s a failure.” (translated from Catalan)
Fortunately, positive comments outnumbered the negatives by far. Some students just commented : thank you, teachers. Yet negative comments, although inevitable in any learning enterprise, help us improve and to a major extend, find alternavtive ways to engage students and empower them to learn languages in the 21. century