Saturday, 3 March 2012

Portfolios in the classroom - John Gunning speaks in Iida

On Feb 25th our local Chapter of the Japan Association of Language Teachers held a meeting in Iida, which apparently is the first time ever to hold a workshop there. I am gald we finally corrected that oversight!

I had invited a relatively new friend of mine to present for us (I am supposed to organise an event every month or so, as 'Programme Chair'), John Gunning. I met John last year, when he joined a training session I ran in Nagoya to become an examiner for us (Cambridge ESOL). I had previously seen him around at National JALT Conferences looking very busy (yet calm) and smart - Conference Manager must be a very stressful job to take on!

Anyway, John put his hand up when I was looking for speakers this year, and Iida seemed relatively convenient to Gifu (until we looked at train schedules late in the day!). John wanted to share his experiences using Portfolios in the classroom, with a college class he had taught recently. I was very interested in this topic, as I have been trying to figure out how we at Luna can better collate the work our students are doing (for them - I do try hard to do the sharing from the teacher's end here & elsewhere online such as Facebook, twitter as @oyajimbo, flickr...). I am concerned that after years of study and hardwork, they will have lost all the scraps of paper, pictures, projects they have worked so hard on in class and at home.

My focus has been finding a digital/online solution, and I am still inclined that way personally, but I know a lot of our students & parents are steadfastly analogue. I had not considered using portfolios for assessment, in any shape or form, but very much enjoyed John's approach - get the students to agree on marking rubrics and to then assess each others' work accordingly. Students built up a week-on-week folder of class work and out of class assignments, which was very easy to look over and see the development (or lack thereof) language and presentation. Seeing other students work (as ongoing assessment) served to motivate the less achieving class members with what he called a "Yabai!" moment (Japanese exclamation of alarm/socks need pulling up). It also meant John was not the final arbiter on performance.

Now at Luna we will not be adopting portfolios for assessment, but I think parents could very easily reverse engineer the process and assess us. And I think that is a very good idea indeed. So, now I have a use for all the old ring binders clogging up our 'storeroom'!

Thank you John for the inspiration! (Next time we'll have a beer together instead of making you catch a train around the moon!)

* Why not come to Shinshu JALT's next meeting? It will be held from 12:30 in Agata-no-Mori, Matsumoto, on March 25th.
Atsuko Katanaga, Akiko Seino and Mari Nakamura will be talking about their perceptions of the job we are doing teaching English. Each presenter will talk for approx an hour, and there will be Q/A. Presentations will be in Japanese, but I am sure they can handle Japanese questions too. The meeting is open to non-members (Y500).