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About 25 years ago, in the early days of EVC we were having great success teaching students to create documentaries and present them at big premiere screenings. Students attended our afterschool workshops for 4 afternoons per week, 3 hours per day for 15 weeks earning credit for their time and these screenings were the culminating celebrations. They still are! So when we were asked us to evaluate the impact of our program, we’d say, “Just look at their documentary– their final group product –that contains all the evidence of their skills, knowledge and competencies.”
Then a funder challenged me on this. She said, “Yes, their tape is really great. But its not the complete picture. How do you know what the students learned through the process? What evidence can you show me from this group project of what individual students now know and can do as a result of your program?” Not only we couldn’t clearly articulate what the kids were learning. Neither could they. When we asked them what they learned, they’d say- “To make a video.” And schools asked us for more evidence of their learning in order to grant credit. So, with assistance from Bill Tally, Senior Researcher at the Center for Children and Technology, we began to slow down and look more closely at all the incremental steps of the creative process, the small projects and the skills that went into them that contributed to the large project, look at the work for evidence to assess student learning. And we came to portfolios as a means to do it.
This was the early 1990s and their was a lot of writing and growing interest in portfolios, and later digital portfolios, in arts education and in education reform more broadly. Portfolios as collecting student work really came from the arts, collections of drawings and painting, and from writers saving their drafts of writing. There was push back on portfolios then, and still is today because they are messy and the criteria are not consistent. and time consuming And there is no question they are. That is a challenge and constraint. But they also …… (see slide)
So while we know we need to answer funders’ questions of how we evaluate the impact we have on our students learning, we really do this primarily for our students, And for school principals and teachers who are granting students credit for their work at EVC. And it also benefits us and our staff and external stakeholders including funders.
In our work at EVC, its really not about the portfolios by themselves It’s the thinking and conversations they provoke for us since they are closely linked to the curriculum and instruction. So we have to be clear about what we are teaching and what we expect kids to come away knowing in order to know what counts as evidence of learning. And this may vary across organization and school, but with us we feel its important to teach the whole child and so we take an interdisciplinary approach using rubrics in 4 domains. We make these public and review them with the students at various intervals throughout the semester.
We closely examine the evolving quality of work each student creates through their doc production, and ask them to as well. And then within each area, as a staff we listed all the things we ask students to create along their journey to producing their documentary. Authentic evidence in the sense that they aren’t asked to take a special test. They need to know how to create these things in order to create a high quality documentary, and be reflective about it. So this is a partial list of the work they produce. And with each one, they have to create drafts to improve their quality. Examining these evolving drafts of work, students look for evidence of their learning and skill development.
As I mentioned before, it is really only possible for the kids to create the artifacts we ask them to collect in their portfolios if the curriculum and the teaching is aligned with your rubrics and portfolios. Students learn best about the aesthetics involved in framing, lighting, composing images if they have multiple opportunities to shoot and then watch back and critique their footage. Or to tell an artful story through their video they need in the class for rough cut critique sessions, etc. So we work at weaving the practice of self assessment and reflection into instruction throughout the process. We work at building a culture of reflection and assessment.
After we have our final screening, each student is required to present evidence of their learning in two of the four domains. They have to select at least 3 different artifacts showing progress over time, with a cover letter for the panelists. In their presentation, they might show clips for example, “Here is the first time I used the camera, the framing was off, it was backlit, the next time I did a hand held shot. And this is the shot I’m most proud of because….” We invite a panel of guest for each student, that may include a teacher, family member, EVC staff and sometimes a professional media artist or college professor. We structure the hour long conversation with a protocol of what we call “warm” and “cool” feed back. And stress the students’ ownership over their own learning. In assessing he work, panelists link what they see to the appropriate rubric. They may present on their camerawork, editing, interviewing, etc.
This work is animated by a set of underlying principles and practices. (see slide)
I encourage you when you get a chance, to watch the video listed here at this link. Its only 8 minutes long, but it gives you a snapshot of the process. 2 of our workshop students a few years ago presenting their portfolios. I hope we can carry on this conversation as a group about portfolios and authentic assessment of youth media work and learning.
Hive NYC meet-up with Educational Video Center (EVC)
Portfolio Assessment and Youth Media
Documentary Arts Programs at EVC
The Premiere Screening
A Public Celebration of the Group’s Final Product
But assessing the final group product is not enough.
What did each student learn through the process of
Portfolios – collections of student work
But they’re messy and time consuming. Why bother?
They give us a richer, more authentic picture of how and
what students learn over time
Build students’ sense of ownership over their learning
and habits of self-reflection
Provide important feedback on how to continually
improve our media arts curriculum and teaching
Engage the broader community in public conversation
about student learning and creative work
We ask students to collect a
range of work as evidence
of revision and growth over
time, aligned to EVC’s 4
main Rubric Domains:
• Documentary Arts
• Critical Literacy
• Civic Engagement
• Social Emotional
Looking for Authentic Evidence in Youth
• Project Treatment
• Camera Footage
• Interview Questions and Logs
• Research Notes and Emails
• Edit Plan
• Rough Cuts and Notes
• Music Tracks
• Journals, Blogs, Podcasts
• Self-Assessment Rubrics
• Portfolio Cover Letter
Portfolio Assessment Roundtables
We Build A Reflective and
• Drafts Over Time
• Diverse Panel
• Structured, In-Depth
• Ownership of their
EVC’s Principles and Practices of
• Assessment is for students
• Puts focus on creative process
– revision, experimentation,
and growth over time
• Is faithful to the work students
• Makes standards and
expectations of quality public
• Engages all students in a
• Promotes ongoing self
reflection, goal setting, and
Visit our website our the Impact page, to view an
example of an EVC Portfolio Roundtable:
For more information about
Assessment and Youth Media Documentary Arts
Programs at EVC, visit www.EVC.org