Co-teaching models

The New Teacher Advisor

Student Portfolios as an Assessment Tool

from: http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/columnists/mcdonald/mcdonald025.shtml

Teachers and administrators have been making a move from traditional paper-and-pencil type tests to alternate forms of assessment. Teacher observation, projects, essays, and other more creative ways of evaluating student achievement have gained a larger following within the classroom. Although its use has declined, one type of assessment tool that can be used very effectively is the student portfolio. Portfolios remain quite popular in education coursework and with administrators evaluating senior teachers. Why, then, do so many classroom teachers forego the use of portfolios as assessment tools?

One reason might be that the portfolio is a very subjective form of assessment. For anyone uncomfortable without a grading key or answer sheet, subjective evaluation can be a scary task. Secondly, teachers often are unsure themselves of the purpose of a portfolio and its uses in the classroom. Third, there is a question of how the portfolio can be most effectively used to assess student learning.

The following suggestions will help you come to terms with those three factors and allow you to utilize student portfolios to evaluate the learning occurring in your classroom.

Set a goal, or purpose, for the portfolio. Your goal should be tied to how you plan to use the portfolio. Do you want to see student improvement over the long term or a mastery of a specific set of skills? Is it important for you to see the scope of student learning over time or do you merely want to collect samples of student work to pass along to the next teacher? Are you looking for a concrete way to show parents the amount of work completed and their childs improvement over time? Take some time to think about what kind of data you want to collect and how you plan to use it.

Next, determine how — or if — you will grade the portfolios. If your purpose is merely to collect work samples to pass along to another teacher or parent, there is no need to actually grade the portfolios. If, however, you are looking for an overall mastery of skills, you will want to grade the work collected. The most efficient way to grade a portfolio is through a rating scale. If youre looking for specific skills, you might begin with a checklist. That checklist will ensure that all necessary pieces are included. I use the following guidelines: Is the work completed correctly (mechanics), completely (information), and comprehensively (depth)? Each area is marked on a scale of 1-4. My scale is 1 = not at all; 2 = somewhat; 3 = mostly; and 4 = entirely.

Say, for example, that as a teacher of writing, Im looking for examples within the student portfolios that show each writing mode covered during my course. Each piece then is determined to be correct, complete, and comprehensive based on a scale of 1-4. The three scores are averaged giving each piece an overall score. I then average all the scores to give a grade for the entire portfolio. A math teacher might be looking for samples showing various problems solved based on the skills taught during a particular unit or year. A social studies teacher might be looking for comprehension and understanding of major events during a specific time period. Each teacher must determine what skills or learning are to be evaluated through student portfolios.

It also is important — especially if you plan to use the portfolio as a major grade for your course — that you get another teacher to help with the evaluations. That ensures that your assessment is reliable. Teachers often cut some slack for less academically inclined students, while holding others to higher standards. That is especially prevalent in subjective assessments. By asking a teacher who is unfamiliar with your students to read over the work and assess it using your rating scale, you are making a more authentic evaluation. The two scores then can be averaged to get a final grade. That will show you and the student a more accurate assessment of their work products.

One thing to keep in mind is that, although many portfolios reflect long-term projects completed over the course of a semester or year, it does not have to be that way. You can have students create portfolios of their work for a particular unit. That portfolio might count as a project for that particular topic of study. The next unit might not include the use of a portfolio as an assessment tool. There is no need to collect work in a portfolio, give an end-of-unit test, and have students complete a major project in connection with the unit. All three activities are tools to evaluate student learning and its overkill for both you and the students to use all three. Choose the type of assessment that best meets the goals and objectives of a particular unit.

Finally, student involvement is very important in the portfolio process. It is vital that students also understand the purpose of the portfolio, how it will be used to evaluate their work, and how grades for it will be determined. Make sure students are given a checklist of what is expected in the portfolio before they begin submitting work. Take time at the beginning of the unit to explain the type of evaluation it is, so students clearly understand what is expected in terms of work product.

It also is important that you allow students a choice of what is placed in their portfolios. Although you might have a few specific pieces you require, permit students to include two or three pieces of their own choosing. Additionally, be sure to offer students the opportunity to reflect about the work included in the portfolio. What are their thoughts and feelings about each piece? Does it represent their best work or were they goofing off when they completed it? Why did a student choose a particular piece? What was his or her thought process in determining which pieces to submit? Those kinds of questions force students to actively think about their work and the portfolio as a whole rather than simply throwing any old assignment into a folder. Reflection provides further meaning to the assessment.

The portfolio is not the easiest type of assessment to implement, but it can be a very effective tool. Portfolios show the cumulative efforts and learning of a particular student over time. They offer valuable data about student improvement and skill mastery. Along with student reflection, that data provides valuable information about how each student learns and what is important to him or her in the learning process.

When starting the portfolio process, remember to keep it simple. Start with a single unit. Determine your goals and purpose for the portfolio. Create a checklist. Explain the process to students and encourage them to take an active role in the development of their portfolios. What you might discover is a very valuable and meaningful evaluation tool that effectively assesses student learning.


Article by Emma McDonald
Education World
Copyright © 2011 Education World

  • – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

She said, “…teachers have to share and be there for one another or we will never survive the profession.”


Posting grades in Edline.






Las mejores charlas de TED de Educación

La filosofía de estas conferencias es difundir las buenas ideas y experiencias de personas alrededor del mundo de forma entretenida e innovadora. La revista digital Semana Educación seleccionó las cinco mejores enfocadas en educación.




Once hábitos que afectan el cerebro y su rendimiento

No desayunar, cubrirse la cabeza al dormir, consumir muchos azúcares y dormir poco; son algunos. El Tiempo.


Giving clear instructions. 

Thought this article was really great for giving specific and age-appropriate examples of clear instructions and expectations –definitely key as you set the tone for the classroom in the next few weeks. – Crista Hirmas.


89 movies on education / 89 películas sobre educación.


Videojuegos violentos aumentarían el riesgo de delincuencia y alcoholismo

Los jóvenes tienden a identificarse con los protagonistas de estos títulos, según estudio.

Por:   | EL TIEMPO.

11:35 a.m. | 4 de agosto de 2014


Open letter from a second-year teacher to a first year teacher:

check it out here


Para ser maestro habrá que estudiar 5 años y saber inglés

Mineducación impondrá nuevas condiciones a programas que forman maestros, para mejorar su calidad.

Las carreras de formación de maestros del país, conocidas como licenciaturas, tendrán una duración obligatoria de cinco años (que se podrán extender si se opta por una doble titulación o maestría). Hoy no todas tienen esa duración.

Artículo completo aquí:



10 Steps for Avoiding Teacher Burnout

Photo credit: Thinkstock

“Why did I want to be a teacher?” We all face burnout, sometimes on a daily basis, and in my case, especially after fourth period. Most of the time, we can pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off, and go back to the drawing board to try another strategy to find success with student learning. I have to admit that it is getting more and more difficult to make that transition back to a willingness to try again. I can’t help to think students are more difficult than they used to be a few years ago, and pressures from accountability are becoming more oppressive. And of course, the pay for teachers is inadequate. With all of this we may ask, is it worth it?

Rather than provide a list of things to avoid, I would like to take a more proactive stance by sharing things that will help diminish burnout feelings and help you answer, yep, it is worth it.

Step #1) Have Fun Daily with Your Students

Share jokes, brief stories, puzzles, brain teasers, etc. This keeps it interesting for you and for your students. It only takes a minute and they are easy to align to the topic of the day.

Step #2) Take Care of Your Health

The physical status of your body affects your emotional responses, so never feel guilty about taking care of yourself. Skipping lunch or breakfast are bad ideas. Make sure you get enough sleep each day. Take a rejuvenating micro-nap when you get home. Get some better shoes to put a spring in your step. I used to think that I was an active teacher and did not need exercise, but I realized that I need cardio-vascular and upper body exercise, too. Thirty minutes on a treadmill, two days a week will do wonders. Simple pushups strengthen your abdomen, back, and arms. You will be surprised at how much it helps you not be worn out at the end of the day.

Step #3) Learn Something New and Share It with Your Students

Read an interesting book — education or non-education related. I have been reading, The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got that Way from Amanda Ripley. It is interesting and education related, so I don’t feel guilty about taking time away from lesson planning and grading. Read a classic that you have always wanted to read but never got around to reading. Watch a TED Talk or go to Iuniversity and find something interesting about brain research (that’s what I like to explore anyway).

Step #4) Help Another Teacher

Share your motivating experiences locally or online. Edutopia is always here for that. If you take the time to respond to a blog, you may be surprised at the response. Start your own uplifting blog to help beginning teachers or nearly burned out ones. Be active in your professional organization by volunteering to teach, facilitate, or prepare workshops. Mentor another teacher, either formally or informally. We can all use as much help as we can get.

Step #5) Make Someone’s Day

Call a parent and tell them how good their student is. Find a student that is struggling and sincerely complement him or her on something they are doing well. Show gratitude for an administrator, or fellow teacher by sending them an appreciative note, giving them a hug, or presenting to them a small gift.

Step #6) Lighten Up

Smile (it’s after Christmas and it’s ok). Try looking in the mirror, putting on a smile and then try not smiling for real. It is nearly impossible. So try smiling when you do not feel like smiling. When you greet your students at the door, smile at them and a miracle happens: They will smile back.

Step #7) Be a Scientist

Experiment with new strategies and become an expert in them. Ask your students to help. Do a control group and an experimental group. Document your results and share them at a faculty meeting or a conference. Celebrate success.

Step #8) Look for the Positive

Be a voice for positive thinking, even in the staff lounge. It won’t change the situations, but you will feel better and others might be uplifted too. While teaching is hard, it is not all bad. Half empty glasses are not nearly as exciting as half full ones.

Step #9) Redecorate

Switch out the bulletin boards, move the desks, and adjust the lighting. Add your favorite smells or be adventurous with new ones. I found interesting ones: rhubarb, teak wood, and Hawaiian breeze (usually spray, or solid.) Check with your schools policy about bringing plug-in oil or scented wax warmers.

Step #10) Trust Students More

Let the students know that you will be trusting them more and give them opportunities to earn your trust. Try some project-based learning. Develop strong rubrics, share them with students, and then let them learn as you facilitate and coach.

Turning Things Around

It seems it is easier to fall into the trap of pessimism and negativity because of all the (okay, I will say it) “garbage” teachers have to endure, but that does not have to be our choice. We can choose our attitude, and choosing to do proactive things like those I listed above will go a long way in helping us keep our sanity and avoiding burnout. What helps you keep plugging away? Please share in the comments section below.

10 Things in School That Should Be Obsolete

 | July 20, 2012 |
  • Flickr: Corey Leopold
By Greg Stack

So much about how and where kids learn has changed over the years, but the physical structure of schools has not. Looking around most school facilities — even those that aren’t old and crumbling –  it’s obvious that so much of it is obsolete today, and yet still in wide use.

1.   COMPUTER LABS. Students are connected to the Internet everywhere except in school. Regardless of their income bracket, most kids carry around a world of information in their pockets on their mobile devices, and yet we force them to power down and disconnect, and we confine them in obsolete computer labs. A modern school needs to have connectivity everywhere and treat computers more like pencils than microscopes.

Greg Stack

At Northern Beaches Christian School students learn everywhere.

2.   LEARNING IN PRESCRIBED PLACES.When you ask people to remember a meaningful learning experience from high school, chances are the experience didn’t take place in a space designed for learning. Working in groups, while on a trip, while doing a project or learning while talking with friends — those are the lasting, meaningful learning experiences. Yet we don’t design schools to accommodate these activities and focus only on the formal spaces.

3.  TEACHER-CENTERED CLASSROOM. Classrooms were designed for lecture and crowd control, with the teacher as the central figure of knowledge and authority.  The teacher had knowledge to impart through direct instruction and the current classroom structure works pretty well for this. This basic classrooms structure is the same, though in some schools, the chalkboard has been replaced by the interactive “Smart Board.” In progressive classrooms, the structure has changed: small groups of kids working, project work, and student presentations require rethinking this model.
4.   ISOLATED CLASSROOMS. Tony Wagner of the Harvard School of Education and the author of the Global Achievement Gap says: “Isolation is the enemy of improvement” and yet most schools are designed in a way that isolates teachers from each other. Teachers often learn to teach in isolated boxes and perpetuate that style throughout their career. Interior windows get “papered over” and blinds are shut. Yet out of school, people work in teams and are visually and often aurally connected.
5.   DEPARTMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS. In order to break down the size of schools and to allow students to learn across curriculum, it’s essential to organize schools so that teachers of various subjects are located together. This not only emulates how people work today – in collaborative groups – but encourages teachers to consider students holistically, not only as they perform in a specific subject.

6.   SCHOOL CORRIDORS. Corridors take up a lot of valuable real estate in a school and are unoccupied most of the time. If rooms are arranged in groups around a common space, corridors are not necessary. And unused corridors can be made into informal learning spaces.

7.   TRADITIONAL SCHOOL LIBRARIES. In a modern school a library should be more of a learning commons able to support a variety of student activities as they learn to access and evaluate information.  Books have their place but they are not the end-all of libraries.  A learning commons is no longer the quiet sanctum of old, rather it is a space that can be central or distributed, used formally or informally, and one that can stimulate a spirit of inquiry in students.

8.   DARK, INDOOR GYMS. Most gyms have no access to natural light because of fear of glare that might interfere with sporting events. But with soaring energy costs, being able to turn off lights in a gym can amount to big savings. Designing glare-free gyms is possible but typically requires more natural light not less. Skylights, well placed windows and ample light create a great experience and a functional space.

9.   INSTITUTIONAL FOOD SERVICE. School food service usually involves folding tables that are placed and replaced throughout the day.  With cleanup activities it takes the commons/cafeteria out of action most of the day.  Why sacrifice this valuable space when it could serve multiple purposes? Creating spaces that require less movement of furniture while remaining flexible will allow them to be used more effectively.  Common spaces can also be less institutional, which in turn increases their flexibility.  Decentralizing food service allows students to eat in smaller groups and also allows multi-use of spaces.  Even if the food isn’t better, the space can be.

10.   LARGE RESTROOMS. Students try to avoid using school restrooms even in new schools because of concerns over privacy, bullying, and cleanliness contribute. To avoid restroom use, students stop drinking water and become dehydrated, and unable to focus. In Finland and other parts of Europe, they use individual restrooms that are located in the shared learning areas between classrooms. There seems to be a feeling of ownership for these, so they don’t get trashed. Also, they have more privacy, and there’s less bullying.

Greg Stack is an architect for NAC Architecture and specializes in developing best practices for the planning and design of educational environments. A version of this post originally appeared on School Design Matters.



An introduction to comprehensive assessment.


Debe el Ajedrez ser parte del Plan de Estudios?


Homework worth the time?

Educators need to rethink the kinds of homework assignments they give to students, researchers say.

A recent study led by an Indiana University professor found that traditional homework assignments won’t improve a student’s grades but could boost standardized test scores.

With many students reporting they spend more than 100 hours each year on homework, it begs the question: Is homework still worth the time?

While most experts believe it is, some recommend that educators rethink their approach to giving homework. Traditional assignments might become a thing of the past as teachers move toward assignments that are more project-based or require more critical thinking, they say.

Indiana’s Taylor High School is among the schools making those changes.

“Some districts are toying with the idea of eliminating homework completely,” said Taylor High School Principal Eric Hartman. He said he doesn’t think that’s the answer.

Neither do the authors of the study.

“We’re not trying to say that all homework is bad,” said Adam Maltese, co-author of the study and assistant professor of science education in the IU School of Education. “It’s expected that students are going to do homework.”

Schools just need to take a closer look at what they’re assigning to students and why, Maltese said.

(see full article at http://www.eschoolnews.com/2012/12/28/is-homework-worth-the-time/)

Can Texting Develop Other Writing Skills?

August 15, 2012 | 11:47 AM | By

(Thanks to David Hart for contributing this article)

As more schools begin allowing students to bring their own devices and actually use them in class, the debate around the value of “digital writing” — texting, taking notes on mobile devices, tweeting, etc. — is heating up.

Some educators (and even a linguistic expert) believe kids who text are exercising a different, additional muscle when texting, writing, and note-taking — and that skill is actually adding to a student’s growing and changing repertoire.

“Children know that when you’re in school, you do not use texting language,” said linguistics expert Susana Sotillo, an associate professor at Montclair State University in an article in the North Jersey Record. “…No one is destroying the English language; the English language just keeps changing. It’s not a good idea to present change as a negative aspect.”

see full article at http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2012/08/can-texting-develop-other-writing-skills/


June 7, 2012 from WKSU

Imagine a school where every child gets instant, personalized writing help for a fraction of the cost of hiring a human teacher — and where a computer, not a person, grades a student’s essays.

It’s not so far-fetched. Some schools around the country are already using computer programs to help teach students to write.

There are two big arguments for automated essay scoring: lower expenses and better test grading. Using computers instead of humans would certainly be cheaper, but not everyone agrees on argument No. 2.

Les Perelman, director of the student writing program at MIT, is among the skeptics. Perelman recently tried out a computer essay grading program made by testing giant Educational Testing Service.

“Of the 12 errors noted in one essay, 11 were incorrect,” Perelman says. “There were a few places where I intentionally put in some comma errors and it didn’t notice them. In other words, it doesn’t work very well.”

(read full article in http://www.npr.org/2012/06/07/154452475/computers-grade-essays-fast-but-not-always-well )


  1. Carmencb says:

    This is a great way to involve students in their learning process. I think students will find more meaning in what they do and learn.

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