Three times during each school year, students enrolled at the Eagle Rock School participate in a self-appraisal of their educational successes during the previous trimester, and they do it in public, before a live audience that is searching for evidence of learning from the student.
It’s Share and Tell on steroids, and for Eagle Rock students it’s an opportunity to present themselves as learners. The process is called Presentation of Learning (POL), and it serves as a rite of passage for all Eagle Rockers. POLs enable our students to make a case that they have soaked in an abundance of learning in the preceding months on campus.
This process isn’t at all about getting credit in courses, because students either have or have not documented learning to a level of mastery in their courses. POLs are an overarching tool for our students, allowing them to pause in learning, reflect, synthesize and analyze. They are tasked with considering both personal and academic growth, linking their learning to past learning, and projecting future learning goals. All within a 15-minute presentation.
The panel observing these deliveries consists of teachers, administrators, community members and others who are interested in alternative assessment, education renewal, and the progress of our students.
Before sitting down for these live sessions, panelists have in hand a packet of information produced by the student. This includes a cover letter, an autobiography and a resume. The student also prepares a list of learning experiences, service projects, books read, and ambassador activities (such as helping to make a presentation at a conference). And there is a personal growth reflection called “I Used to Be … But Now I Am…” as well as a statement of their own evolving personal moral and ethical code.
As students progress through their POL, evidence of learning is documented with data and examples of completed products and projects. If done correctly, the emphasis and focus are on the application of learning — not just a rundown on what classes were taken.
Capping every POL are questions posed first by the panel, then the audience. These are questions intended to extract extemporaneous thinking and response. It’s a good learning experience as well as an accountability tool for the entire campus.
These end-of-trimester POLs — starting with a debut presentation made upon arrival at Eagle Rock — become a running documentary of videotapes that demonstrate clearly how students become more experienced at presenting themselves.
All of this in preparation for an hour-long POL at graduation, a session that serves as a “master’s thesis” at the high school level.