Category Archives: #Student-centered Learning

Evaluation Criteria for Portfolio Assessments

While quantitative measures may be applied to assess competency-based outcomes via “standardized” instrumentation (i.e. testing, performance checklists, etc.); qualitative outcomes (which vary among individuals) can only be assessed via documentation mechanisms that are indicative of the unique characteristics (and higher-order thinking abilities) exhibited by each pupil.  Higher-order reasoning occurs when humans engage in learning experiences that compel them to conduct research, complete “personal” works, communicate via written and oral presentations, and evaluate the works of their peers.  Thus, practitioners (and society) must move beyond our reliance upon standardized assessments as the primary means of evaluating what (and how) students are learning.  Accordingly, portfolio assessments ought to be employed to exhibit the higher-order outcomes (i.e. products and processes) that are acquired by practitioners and their students.

The following criteria may be applied when assessing the specified requirements for (your/student) portfolios:

  1. Evidence of Reflective Analysis (Excellent; Average; Needs Improvement).
  2. Professional Appearance (Excellent; Average; Needs Improvement).
  3. Adherence to Content Requirements (Excellent; Average; Needs Improvement).

Criteria of Excellent: (Maximum points available may be awarded)

  • A well organized and useable portfolio;
  • Work is neat, indicative of mindful thinking, and well written;
  • Creativity and unique perspectives/constructs are exhibited.

Criteria of Average: (Maximum points will not exceed 90 percent of the potential)

  • A well organized and useable portfolio;
  • Work is neat, indicative of mindful thinking, and well written;
  • Creativity is kept to a minimum and examples (samples) address only the minimum requirement(s) associated with each section (i.e. component) exhibited in the portfolio.

Criteria of Needs Improvement: (Maximum points will not exceed 80 percent of the potential)

  • Portfolio contains examples of work but lacks adequate organizational structure, it requires additional effort to become useable (i.e. functional);
  • The documentation (i.e. examples) included in the portfolio appears inconsistent and/or not aligned with the requirements specified;
  • The portfolio shows that the practitioner (or student) has demonstrated little creativity and mindfulness when considering the overall appearance of the compilation.

Portfolio Requirements: (Additional components may be determined by participants)

  1. Title Page;
  2. Table of Contents;
  3. Presentation of Materials (via distinct sections with a description of contents that follow);
  4. Reflective Analysis (i.e. descriptive information including the significance of each component);
  5. Concluding Remarks (i.e. identify at least 3 components that are most significant);
  6. An Appendix Section (containing selected articles and/or relevant information).

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A Reflective Questionnaire for Practitioners of Education

So you have decided to … May I suggest that you write a paragraph (or more) to address each of the questions that are … Reflect upon your statements; revise them when deemed appropriate!  May you be inspired to take action … to inspire your peers … to enhance the context of your professional practice.


How much time per week do you spend on planning to initiate learning experiences?

Would you describe your classroom supplies as being adequate/inadequate? Why?

What are some of the most pressing concerns you have regarding the problems that are occurring in your school/district?

What suggestions might you convey to improve instructional mechanisms in your school/district?

How often do you discuss problems that are occurring in your classroom/school (with peers)?

Have you participated in planning or initiating any (action-oriented) research/studies during the past 5 years?

What is the nature of your philosophical views about teaching and learning?

What instructional methods are most frequently employed in your classroom/school?

Identify (at least) two professional goals that you want to realize!

Remember, the more you write about something; the more proficient you will become.  As you reflect upon your perception/reality; perhaps the sparks required to stimulate professional development and innovative processes will be perpetuated!

Best Wishes; My works (i.e. Professional Development Resources) are published via  I encourage you to sample/purchase: “Becoming A Reflective Practitioner” & “The Dichotomy of Instructional Design” @

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Developing (Dynamic) Instructional Programs

As Frymier (2001) has indicated:

Thirty different textbooks would be more appropriate than 30 copies of the same book. Three Thousand articles on geography … would be … [more enriching] than one geography textbook….  Big pieces of material … [with] numbered pages, tend to force teachers and students to accept a given sequence of limited amounts of information….  If curriculum materials are small in size, … superb in quality and great in number, teachers and students have an opportunity to create various patterns of sequence and use of materials.  Such variety increases the likelihood of meeting … [the needs of all students]. (p.62)

Original source material: Frymier, J. (2001). After thirty years of thinking about curriculum. Theory Into Practice, 25(1), 58-63.

The complexity of coursework (i.e. curriculum) and the type of learning that is expected are primary determinants of precisely how “dynamic” your curriculum may become. In cases when a technical objective (i.e. competency requirement) is identified as the intended outcome; your ability to formulate a dynamic strategy (as described by Frymier) is restricted by the structural mechanism (i.e. lesson plan) that you establish. Therefore, we must recognize that “non-technical” curriculums (which ought to be aligned with student-centered outcomes) are most conducive to employing “dynamic mechanisms” and facilitating “applied” learning.

The cognitive nature of applied learning is described by Bottoms, Presson and Johnson (1992) as follows:

Applied learning is actively student-oriented, characterized by lively … discussions, absorbing group projects, meaningful homework assignments, laboratory experiments, live and video … presentations, and other hands-on activities. The purpose of applied learning is to create an environment that actively engages students and teachers in a collaborative learning process. (p.50)

Original source material: Bottoms, Presson & Johnson (1992). Making high schools work. Georgia, Southern Regional Education Board.

Want to learn more about initiating dynamic instructional programs/curriculum? Sample/Purchase “The Dichotomy of Instructional Design” @

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Adapting Instructional Mechanisms to Accommodate Students with Special Needs

Well, our discussion regarding this topic is dependent upon your subject matter -AND- the nature of the needs being considered!

Given the topic (i.e. Adapting … to Accommodate … Special Needs), I shall convey an example that is based on my experience as a Career & Technical Educator while I was employed at a maximum security facility (for incarcerated youth).  This portion of my career was extremely challenging because of the context in which I had to implement my curriculum(s).  As such, some youth were only in my classroom for a few weeks/months; others had more extensive exposure to my teaching.  Furthermore, I had students entering and exiting my program almost weekly.  This scenario gives new meaning to the concept of differentiated instruction!

It is the intent of this post to illustrate the concept of adapting “your process” to address student needs.

Accordingly, the following context applies to our … ; I was initiating a graphic design project with students.  The curriculum involved a multi-stage (i.e. sequential) process that required students to produce a series of components which were based on a concept that I introduced via a short play/dialog.  Our topic: “A Discovery of Technological Systems” required students to develop multiple logos that would be combined into a master illustration of all constructs (i.e. manufacturing, communication, transportation, energy & power, construction systems and bio-technologies).  Each logo required students to “brainstorm” concepts (in the form of sketches) that could be refined and … combined with other logos to be assembled into a final “mock-up” which served as the template for — a screen printing activity — that would represent “mastery of the process”.

Note: Mastery of the process is not the same thing as mastery of the skill set!

Ok, now that you have an adequate illustration of the context in which the learning experiences occurred; I can finally convey the concept as described in the title of this post.  Well–one student in particular had not been to school (enough to complete …).  It was discussed at “our team” meeting that the extent of truancy (in this case) may have been six years.  It is sufficient to say that “our” … was a special needs student!

So, each day when “my” students arrived, we brought out their materials (generated from the previous sessions) and continued toward our goal.  (Are you following?)

Great, because I want to take this opportunity to tell you that “you” are responsible for the “safe keeping” of all work — “You must collect” & “You must distribute”.  This is essential  because “special needs” students may … the work of others (and they “may” sabotage their own efforts because of … fear of success … or a belief that they cannot possibly succeed).

So, you must control the flow of ALL resources pending/completed and/or utilized!

Back to the topic at hand–My special needs student came to class each day “scribbled out a logo” and told me — “that’s it”; it’s my design for …! I responded, let’s try another system. He (always) replied! That’s all I’m doing today!

How would you respond?

I simply stated: Ok, if you sit there quietly, without causing … (a disturbance), I will not force you to continue.  He probably thought he had this sucker wrapped around his finger.  But I had a longer range goal in my sights: HIS SUCCESS in fulfilling the requirements that were established.  Yes, he would screen print his design and wear his t-shirt (with pride); although he had yet to discover that fact.  This scenario repeated itself daily. Since I was collecting the work of all students (and securing it); some of my students had no idea that they were making progress!

Getting to the point:  This student finally developed all of the required sketches; when I said let’s refine them, he said nope that’s good enough for me!  So, I adapted my expectations (of success) to align with his expectations of failure.  NO WAY was I going to let this kid manipulate me; (SO HE COULD PROVE that HE WAS A FAILURE). As far as I was concerned; he was ready to print his haphazard collection of sketches — (after “pasting” them together into a final mock-up).  Subsequently, this student successfully “burnt” a screen template and prepared it for use on the “press”.  Finally, we slipped a t-shirt on the apparatus (after securing the template) and then, he stated he could not continue.  So, I placed my hands on top of his and “we” pulled the squeegee across the template.  Then, we gently lifted the press (i.e. template) and the image was perfect.  Wow, I don’t think I will ever forget the look on his face!~The Special Needs Student was just like all the other students in my class; HE WAS A SUCCESS. –AND– I had succeeded in guiding him toward that success!

At this point (in our story), I “almost” have a tear in my eye (and this interaction occurred over 20 years ago).  Perhaps being a scholar has “many” disadvantages?

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