One of the biggest hurdles to implementing the portfolio-defense assessment system is getting buy-in from teachers, students, and parents. Many teachers and students have a hard time believing it until they see it, but the pay-offs are huge with the first implementation.
TEACHERS: Articles and small/whole group discussions are a great way to engage teaching staff and faculty in understanding the importance of portfolio and defense as instructional tools that have the potential to impact student reflection and learning. Save the Last Word for Me is a useful protocol to facilitate this discussion and ensure all teachers have voice in this process.
STUDENTS: While students may initially be resistant to the defense until school culture is built, below are some best practices for how to get students to buy into the portfolio and defense, especially if this is your first year of implementation.
Make the Q & A session more like an job interview (might be more appropriate for a 10th grade mini-defense).
Create a scholarship or incentive for students for who do well on their defense from partners.
Incorporate the portfolio and defense into multiple content area classes (if it is only being done through Advisory).
Recognize students who score Advanced in their defense during Graduation.
PARENTS: Be sure to notify parents at the beginning of the year about the senior defense, especially if this will be part of the graduation requirements. Many schools require seniors to pass their defense in order to walk the graduation stage although students can still receive a diploma if they don't pass (school policy vs. district policy).
Defense preparation can be a busy and hectic time, but don't forget to invite parents to be part of the audience for their child's defense. The defense is a time to showcase what the student has learned and how they've grown in the past four years, and in some cases, the defense can be an equally important event as the graduation for both student and parents.