Building reflective learners: Using portfolios with elementary school students



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This alternative dissertation presents two qualitative studies. These studies, conducted in the teacher/researcher’s classroom, focused on the use of portfolios with elementary school students. In the first study, the researcher examined the written reflections of the portfolio participants. Data collection included students’ written reflections generated in response to their selections of work to be included in the portfolio. In the second study, the research focused on the purpose of a portfolio as perceived by the participants. Data collection included interviews and artifacts of the portfolio. In both studies, the researcher kept a reflective journal to document the process of creating portfolios and students’ responses to their use. Results of the first study showed the written reflective language used by students did change over the course of the school year. This change was from more academic awareness to a more personal awareness of what they had accomplished and achieved, including a move from a short terse account to a longer more authentic description of the selected work. Results of the second study showed participants’ understood portfolios as a measure of their achievements. Positive feelings led to self-efficacy with portfolios. These outcomes suggest that elementary school students can grow in self-awareness and self-evaluation through a portfolio experience. Through explicit instruction in written reflection, even a young student's thinking can change and evolve and portfolios can serve as a form of alternative assessment.