My baby book sits in an old cardboard box in my basement. Occasionally I will pull it out, pages yellowed and perfectly square photos slipping out from the once tacky pages. Memories of my childhood will flood my thoughts, of people who are no longer with us and of special times on the family farms and cottages that have been sold. In that same cardboard box is another treasure, my School Days portfolio that my mother archived for me. Each pocket contains class photos and samples of my writing and art, evidence of friendships, hobbies, interests, and future aspirations. Both of these portfolios help tell my story over the past 40-something years. But what is missing?
As Jack Mezirow, American sociologist and Emeritus Professor of Adult and Continuing Education at Columbia University’s Teachers College, said, “A defining condition of being human is that we have to understand the meaning of our experience.”
How can we give each student a voice? How can we see, hear, and observe growth over time with students? How can experiences and milestones be shared with parents and teachers and reflected upon by students? How can teachers learn more about their students so that they have a holistic view of who they are and what they need?
As part of Trinity’s commitment to help each of our students flourish, we capture their growth over time using innovative, authentic, and holistic practices. For the past six years “My Learning,” our internationally recognized digital portfolio system, has been used to record each student’s journey at the School, provide insight into learning experiences, and help students preserve and cherish their Trinity story. Each year, the process provides opportunities for students to practice self-reflection; see themselves as unique individuals; and to capture moments, realizations, and experiences that could otherwise be lost.
We have seen the power of this process as our students look back at their learning over the years through voice recordings, videos, and documentation of their written work. Trinity Teachers promote and value the art of reflection so that students begin to make meaningful connections and deepen their educational experience. We encourage students to ask themselves, “What did I learn? Why does it matter? How can I connect this to something I already know?”
The “My Learning” process also informs teaching, connects parents to their children’s educational journey, and empowers students to be cognizant and accountable for their learning. Through the use of multimedia tools, student experiences are archived to reflect the actions and emotions that occurred in real time. The practice of metacognition and students’ sense of self begin to develop. Students watch themselves interact with peers, perform on stage and in the classroom, and listen to themselves read a passage or work through a math problem to understand their solution.
Additionally, Trinity Teachers collect, archive, and reflect through “My Learning” so that we can see our students’ growth over the years, allowing us to know our students better. It is our responsibility to help students tell the story of who they are as learners, discover their strengths and interests, determine with whom they connect, and demonstrate how they grow physically and emotionally while they are with us.
I will always treasure my hand-bound School Days portfolio, and I am grateful that our school understands the importance of not only capturing each student’s journey in a digital portfolio, but also encouraging a culture of self-reflection and deep understanding. This school year, there are 170 crucial days that will be captured, reflected upon, celebrated, and archived so that our students will have the opportunity to discover who they are now and begin to make decisions about how they see themselves in the future. At Trinity School, every child is known, and we are fortunate to be a part of each student’s unique journey.