During the transition to a proficiency-based system of teaching and learning, districts and schools will need to review and possibly revise existing policies, while also creating new policies that address emerging models, practices, and learning experiences.
The following district policy exemplar on demonstration of learning can be adapted to suit local needs and contexts. The Great Schools Partnership encourages state agencies, nonprofit organizations, districts, and schools to use or revise our policies for noncommercial purposes in the public interest.
Western Mountains Regional School District
Demonstrations of Learning: Exhibitions, Portfolios, and Capstones
Providing students the opportunity to demonstrate their learning progress and achievement is the cornerstone of the district’s approach to proficiency-based education, promotion, and graduation. All students are expected to demonstrate achievement of the knowledge, skills, and work habits articulated in the content-area standards of the Maine Learning Results and the cross-curricular standards outlined in the Guiding Principles. In addition to daily and periodic assessments administered by teachers, the Western Mountains Regional School District supports and promotes deeper learning through performance-based assessments such as exhibitions, portfolios, and capstones. In contrast to other methods of assessment, a demonstration of learning may take on a wide variety of forms and should provide students with opportunities to design their own projects and connect their learning to global, national, and local issues, resources, and opportunities. Some examples include, but are not limited to, projects such as:
- Oral presentations, speeches, or spoken-word poems.
- Video documentaries, multimedia presentations, websites, audio recordings, or podcasts.
- Works of art, illustration, music, drama, dance, or performance.
- Works of fiction and nonfiction published in print or online.
- Essays, poems, short stories, or plays.
- Galleries of print or digital photography.
- Scientific experiments, studies, and reports.
- Physical products such as models, sculptures, dioramas, musical instruments, or robots.
- Portfolios of work samples and academic accomplishments that students collect over time.
- Presentations or slideshows that provide a summary of the knowledge, skills, and work habits students have learned and the learning standards they have met.
NOTE: Districts will need to modify this policy to address all relevant school-based systems that support the completion of performance-based assessments and projects. For example, both exhibitions and portfolios often require appropriate scaffolding and support throughout the grades to prepare students to successfully complete in-depth culminating presentations at the end of high school.
During the elementary, middle, and high school experiences students have opportunities to engage in project learning through exhibitions entail short- and long-term research, interdisciplinary study, and—depending on the context—formal presentations to educators, peers, families, and the public. Exhibitions are both a learning experience and a form of performance assessment that enable students to demonstrate the achievement of expected learning standards for a course, learning experience, subject area, or grade level, including the content-area and cross-curricular standards required for promotion and graduation. In most cases, exhibitions are built on a project-based, inquiry-based, or community-based methodology that engages students in a multidisciplinary project, an investigation of real-world problems, or an exploration of issues that affect their community.
To ensure that students have the support they need to successfully complete exhibitions that meet high academic standards, the school’s educators, counselors, advisors, and community mentors will provide all necessary and appropriate guidance, scaffolding, and resources. Students will be given opportunities to contribute to the design of exhibitions, and the standards and expectations of exhibitions should be aligned with a student’s personal learning plan.
As a companion to personal learning plans and exhibitions, students at East High School are encouraged to develop a portfolio of their academic work, progress, and achievement. Portfolios are a comprehensive collection of work samples compiled to demonstrate the achievement of proficiency on content-area and cross-curricular standards. Samples of work may be drawn from courses and learning experiences offered by the school or through alternative learning pathways such as internships or dual-enrollment courses. The presentation of a portfolio is a form of exhibition and performance-based assessment.
Satisfactory completion of a capstone exhibition or project is an East High School graduation requirement. To be eligible for a diploma, all students will successfully complete a culminating demonstration of learning during their junior or senior years of high school that demonstrates achievement of content-area and cross-curricular standards.
D. Community Resources and Involvement
Student engagement in learning can be enhanced when exhibitions, portfolios, and capstones allow students to explore topics, issues, and problems that are relevant to their lives, their community, and their personal interests and aspirations, and when these learning experiences allow students to engage members of the public as resources, advisors, mentors, and teachers. Students are encouraged to make use of community-based resources, expertise, institutions, and learning opportunities during the process of preparing and presenting exhibitions, portfolios, and capstones., The district’s schools are encouraged to invite community members to serve as reviewers and panelists during in-school or public presentations of student work and achievement.
IKA: Grading and Reporting System
IKF: Graduation Requirements
Download the District Policy Exemplar: Demonstration of Learning (.doc)
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