Digital Portfolio Challenge Posts

As regular Radical readers know, I’ve started a Digital Portfolio Pilot Project on my learning team (see here and here).  My goal is to encourage my students to become more reflective about their own learning.  After all, feedback GATHERED BY learners is ALWAYS more valuable than feedback GIVEN TO learners.

One of the things that I’ve noticed, though, is that my students really struggle with the language of reflection.  

The vast majority of the early posts that they are adding to their digital portfolios have been simple summaries of classroom activities.  They’ve written about books that they are reading or questions that they are wondering about or movies that they’ve watched.  They’ve written about concepts that they’ve studied and formulas they’ve learned and cultures they’ve explored.

But they haven’t told me much about their strengths or their weaknesses or the progress that they are making as learners.  They haven’t shared much evidence of their learning or set new goals for themselves or celebrated successes that they’ve had.

I think that’s because we rarely ask students to think reflectively about their own learning.

Stew in that for a minute.  How often do you set time aside for students to think about what they know and what they don’t know?  Do the kids in your classroom have a chance to think about who they are as learners on a regular basis?  More importantly, are you regularly asking them to draw conclusions and set direction based on their OWN analysis of what they know and can do?  Stated more simply, do the kids in your room act like passive students or active learners?

To facilitate active reflection in my students, I’ve created a series of Digital Portfolio Challenge Tasks.

You can find them posted here in my Teachers Pay Teachers shop.

Each challenge task asks students to reflect in a different way.  Some ask students to rank order the study strategies that work the best for them.  Others ask students to compare learning experiences IN school to learning experiences BEYOND school.  Some involve creating written reflections about academic successes and others involve creating video tutorials and/or How To guides to demonstrate mastery of a particular skill or concept.

Here are a few examples of those challenge tasks:

Share a YouTube video that OTHER people can learn from.  

Whether you realize it or not, you are an expert on a ton of topics.  Choose one of those areas of expertise.  Then, find and share a YouTube video that novices can learn from.  Write about the reasons that you think the video makes for a good tutorial for rookies.  What should they expect to learn by watching the video?  What should they do AFTER watching the video?

Share a learning tip for a younger student.  

What one bit of advice would you make to a younger student about succeeding as a learner?  Why does that tip matter so much?  How do you know that tip will work?  Has that tip helped you as a learner?  How?

Share an example of work that you improved through revision.

The best learners are always revising their work.  Share an example of something that YOU have improved through revision.  Show us your first draft or explain to us your original thoughts.  Then, show us your final draft or explain to us your final thoughts.  Point out specific places where you made your work better.  Tell us HOW those changes made your work better.  Tell us what you would do if you were to revise this work again.  

My plan is to assign a new challenge task to students each week.

Not only will that give students a chance to experiment with reflecting in a TON of different ways, it will also generate a TON of different examples of just what reflection looks and sounds like in action as kids read the content being created by their peers.  Over time, my hope is that students won’t need challenge posts in order to create new content for their portfolio — but at least for the time being, their lack of experience with in-depth reflection is holding them back.

So whaddya’ think of all of this?  Do your students struggle with the language of reflection, too?  


Related Radical Reads:

My Digital Portfolio Project Planning

More on My Digital Portfolio Project



4 thoughts on “Digital Portfolio Challenge Posts

  1. Robert Schuetz

    Thanks Bill,
    Your prompts will offer students opportunities to learn more deeply about their most important subject, themselves. Like Chris says, reflection, true reflection, is difficult, even for adults. It takes practice, humility, and a desire to grow. Good stories, our lives hopefully become good stories, and reflection advances us to the next chapter, ties themes together, and help us recognize what is important to us. Difficult as it sounds, your students are fortunate to have these learning opportunities.

  2. ctuttell

    Totally love the challenge tasks – prompting them now allows them to build their capacity for reflection later. I am working with a few teachers and students in K-5 on reflecting and it is hard work. Reflection is such an important part, I would argue the most important part of learning, but not many see the value in the process or expect kids to just know how to do it. Hopefully as more educators see the value of digital portfolios and reflecting in the learning process you’ll start to see improvements in reflecting skills. Thanks for the inspiration and validation with student reflections!

    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      It’s definitely true, Chris: Kids don’t know how to reflect out of the womb! We have to teach it systematically — and that can only start when we make it a more deliberate part of our days.

      I just wonder why teachers don’t spend more time on that kind of stuff in their classrooms? We know it matters — so why do we avoid it?

      Looking forward to seeing you again soon,

      1. ctuttell

        I also think reflection can take many forms: blogs, videos, podcasts. That is why I like your tasks- modeling a variety of ways to reflect. I also think we need to do better as teachers when it comes to reflecting. The video you shared a few days ago on twitter is spot on we need to use CFAs and reflect on our practice – our staff still struggles with it.

Comments are closed.