Mark P. Ryan


This study analyzes qualitative data on student perceptions and curriculum transformation from a schoolwide culminating portfolio program of a small, urban, archdiocesan Catholic high school located on the West Coast. Over 4 years, all graduating students (n=102) developed culminating portfolios, evidencing their accomplishment of specific learning outcomes and presented those portfolios to panels of educators, parents, and community representatives. Students, teachers, and panelists were surveyed to determine their perceptions about the benefits and challenges of this process. The study found that (1) students’ perceptions of the portfolio and panel processes were very positive, including the belief that the portfolios helped students determine for themselves the extent and quality of their learning; (2) panelists and school faculty reported the belief that the portfolio process better prepared students for college and helped students reflect upon and assume personal responsibility for their learning; and (3) significant curricular transformations had taken place in what was being taught at the school, how it was being taught, and how it was being assessed. Teachers, students, and panelists identified the benefits of the process for students as well as suggestions to increase the impact of the process on classroom teaching and learning. Challenges in the process included logistics of portfolio management, the amount of time required to develop and continue the process, and the development of methodologies for continued refinement of the program.

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