CN ThesisCulminations for ninth-grade students in Global History: Ancient and Medieval Worlds and Ninth Grade English took the form of 30-minute English/History Portfolio Presentations. Each student selected five favorite English and history pieces from the entire school year and, similar to the oral portion of a graduate school defense, presented them to a committee of three faculty members. 

In the weeks preceding their presentation, students were asked to edit and polish their work, augmenting early pieces with recent studies to enhance them. 

While portfolios were required to have at least four written, analytical pieces, students also had the option to include a work in another format such as video and semifiction.

Faculty committees were made up of each student’s English and history teachers, plus a third from an additional discipline, all of whom reviewed the student’s selected pieces in advance. The committee posed probing questions, helping students reflect deeply and draw out new connections and inferences.

After each presentation, committee members conferred for several minutes and then offered immediate feedback and recommendations to students.

These collections and their presentations represent impressive work by the students, and, most importantly, their growth and development. The Portfolio Presentation becomes an element of assessment, a determination of a student’s demonstrated skills over the year.

“We were intentional about this as an important academic exercise,” said Dan Cristiani, upper school history teacher. “The seriousness with which students curate their portfolio extracts additional valuable learning for each student, and, as a culmination for this course, allows each student to be both challenged by the presentation experience and flourish through their deep knowledge of their own work.”

Is this daunting for ninth graders? Absolutely. And they come through it better students and even more reflective than before. A current tenth grader shared her reflection on the experience: "Both the portfolio project and the defense were extremely helpful and interesting because it gave me a chance to refine my ideas into something coherent, logical, and compelling. It was also really great to see the connections that my defense pointed out between my essays and bigger ideas that even I hadn't noticed before. I hope to be able to do that with more pieces in the future."


June 9, 2017




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