I have had to rethink how I engage with portfolios this year. I have engaged in a great deal of reflection at home, while at the shops, even while having coffee, in the shower or making dinner.
In my previous experience, portfolios have been these open ended creations individual to the child, the service and the educator. I think that can be quiet dangerous. In my experience of the past few years, the children who come full time, or who are more extroverted, or who spend the most time with their educators are the ones who get the most content in their portfolios. The children who are more timid and shy, more independent of their educators or who simply have more quiet personalities or just don’t “take” to the whole early childhood service experience are the ones who miss out. So what do we do to try and even out the playing field?
The answer I came up with was to create sort of format to use. This would mean:
· that all the staff, regardless of their experience or education, would know what the portfolios was expected to look like.
· each child would have a more consistent and even portfolio
· there would be balance within the content of the portfolio.
· that when portfolios are transferred with the children to another educator, then the educator can easily continue with that child’s progress.
· It is easier for educators to ask for help and support.
I am the one who hates to be told what to do and how to do it. I do not like following “focus child systems” where you have to observe Samara on Monday, and Olivia on Tuesday and Aiden on Wednesday. I do not operate like that. I know that others do, and they thrive on it, but that is simply not me.
The Australian government has put out a national learning framework for the early childhood years which is to be implemented nationally. This will of course change the way that many practitioners operate. I know that not all centres use portfolios for the children attending their service. I also know that many services also use a portfolio of artwork and photos and maintain separate developmental information on each child. That is just so much work in that. What if you could streamline things? What if you could have everything in the one place? Wouldn’t that make more sense? Well, I think it does.
I have found that I was somewhat frustrated at times because I have only set aside a certain amount of space for individual observations. As a result, my prolific children who are getting ready to go off to school, are doing more work than I have space for, and I’m strongly driven to document their efforts and creations. These books are all about them after all. So, as a result, I am slightly altering the format for those children. I am giving them more space, and allowing them more opportunity to construct their own books. I have still set a “minimum” for the portfolios, but I’ve relaxed the structure and come to a happy medium. I am pleased with where this is heading.