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Student Portfolios and Project Based Learning: An Approach for Implementing Meaningful Instruction in the Expanded Core Curriculum

Rachel Schles, M.Ed., TVI

Fairfax County Public Schools, Fairfax, Virginia

November 19, 2015

Getting in Touch With Literacy




Why ECC?

Project Based Learning

Scenario 1

: 10


grade student

Scenario 2: 4




Portfolios for All Students

Student Work Samples

Developing Portfolio

Projects & the IEP




Why teach the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC)?

IDEA mandates that academic and

functional performance and outcomes

must be address in the evaluation for an IEP (IDEA 300.304) and development of an IEP (IDEA 300.320).

For students with VI:


unctional Outcomes = Expanded Core Curriculum

How can we provide engaging & meaningful ECC instruction?


Project Based Learning (PBL)

Project Based Learning

challenges students to solve real-world problems. Teachers provide mini-lessons throughout the process to guide students on content knowledge and developing a meaningful final product.

Emphasis on 21


Century Skills (The 4 C’s)

Critical Thinking




Key component for students w/VI—provides an

Authentic Audience

outside of themselves to share the results of their lessons w/TVI.


8 Essentials of PBL

Significant Content (Alignment with ECC skills [standards])A Need to Know (Why is this relevant?)A Driving Question (Clearly summarizes the problem)Student Voice & Choice (Students make choices throughout the process, within project guidelines)21st Century Competencies (The 4 C’s)In-depth Inquiry (Asking questions and creating answers)Critique and Revision (Allow time for reflecting and editing)Public Audience (Sharing results with non-TVI)

Reference: http



ECC & PBL – What Does this Look Like?

Sample Driving Question:

You are finally on your own at college! How can you, as a student with a visual impairment, communicate your needs to your professors and other school personnel while securing the accommodations and tools you need to succeed?

Lesson/mini projects might include: ADA & testing accommodations, dorm life/Independent living skills, transportation, disability services, securing optical devices, communicating with professors,


social opportunities.

Handout 1

Page 1: Resources on PBL & ECC

Page 2: Draft IEP Goals


Scenario 1: 4th Grade Student



grade student with albinism in general education classroom

Acuity - 20/200

Rarely advocating/not using accommodations & tools

Very upset about having albinism/VI and being different

Reluctant to work with TVI



VI services (pull out)

IEP goals were self-advocacy and typing

The situation frustrating for both student and teacher.

Stop, Drop, and Regroup!


Scenario 1: Continued

Completed an Essential Assessment (EA) (including observations, direct assessment, and student, parent, & teacher interviews)

Functional Vision Assessment

Learning Media Assessment

Expanded Core Curriculum Assessment


Student not using tools & devices because they don’t work for her! (recommended low vision exam)

Student has splinter strengths & needs in all areas of the ECC

How to address in a comprehensive IEP goal?

The process of completing the assessments initiated a change in the student’s attitude—she was learning

she had a voice



Scenario 1: Developing Portfolio

Used results of EA to develop specific PBL activities which targeted student needs, including parent & teacher concerns

See Handout 3 for complete Portfolio Rubric

Activities included:

Developing brief statement to explain VI condition*

Understanding Accommodations (Pros & Cons)

Class Presentation +

Note to Substitute Teachers/Support Staff +

Preparing for Low Vision Exam

Social Skills (discussing impact of VI & identifying compensatory techniques) §

* Student requested activity

+ classroom teacher requested activity

§ parent requested activity


Scenario 1: Sample (PBL) Activity

Student selected to enter the APH Unforgettable Star Contest

This was the TVI’s “in” to introduce the student to audio materials she had otherwise refused to test out.

TVI gave mini lessons throughout the process focusing on:

Introducing the technology (Book Port Plus)

How to write a cheat-sheet

Modeling appropriate language to discuss the device

Technology lessons infused throughout as student used a computer to draft and edit her script


Student Work Sample 1 – Letter to Substitute Teachers & Staff


My name is

Kathryn and

I have a visual impairment (Albinism). I wanted to tell you this just in case there is a book with pictures and I move up close. If there is something on the white board and I pull out something that looks like a mini telescope (AKA my monocular) don’t be alarmed! My monocular helps me see far away and the monitor on my desk helps me see the things on the smart board. Also if I don’t move up close it just means that I can see it and you don’t need to remind me to go close up. And one last thing, I am also very smart (and pretty) so you do not have to worry about anything.




Scenario 1: Summary

Rather than IEP goals focusing on skills the student didn’t connect with (typing and self-advocacy), the Portfolio Project allowed the student to have a say in what she was learning and immediately see how skills were relevant to her.

(While working on typing and self-advocacy!)

Student engagement increased as time progressed, and projects always directly related to student interests:

Developed a screenplay to teach peers about the parts of the eye

Wrote & illustrated an original children’s book about a girl who did not want anyone to know she had a VI, and how she became comfortable with herself.

Made a bullet-pointed Pros/Cons list for Explaining Accommodations activity, and while the student felt she did less work because she used bullet points instead of paragraphs, she still met all the criteria for a 4 on that activity.


Scenario 2: 10th Grade Student



grade student in honors/advanced classes

Acuity - 20/100

Advocating for needs in class

Tools/accommodations working well

1 hour/month of vision services (pull out)

Annual IEP due at the start of the school year, so TVI completed informal parent & student interviews

Questions focused on long/short-term goals

Used ECC Screening Tool/Checklist to guide conversation


Scenario 2: Portfolio

See Handout 2 for complete Portfolio Rubric

Activities included:

College Planning (exploring Disability Services)

Understanding IEP and Eye Reports

Mentoring a younger student w/VI

Interviewing a professional w/VI


Scenario 2: Sample (PBL) Activity

Interviewing a Professional (with/VI)

Prior to Interview:

Student researched roles & responsibilities of the profession

Developed list of questions for the professional

ECC mini


essons focused on:

Assistive technology skills while researching

Appropriate written language in

a formal email

Progression of academic degrees (BA, MA,



Guiding student reflection on the implications of what he learned

ECC Areas addressed:

Assistive Technology

Compensatory & Access and Social Skills

Career Education Skills



Scenario 2: Summary & Next Steps

ECC needs were not clearly evident because the student was independent and successful in their academic classes.

Informal assessment and the portfolio project allowed for meaningful use of the student’s direct VI services time.

For similar students, 11


& 12


grade portfolios should focus on teaching students to be their own TVI in college

Locating resources

Explaining their VI and accommodations to professors

Understanding their rights under ADA law


Portfolio Rubrics for All Students

Younger students

Are just becoming aware they have a visual impairment

Instruction will focus on modeling language to explain and explore accommodations (See Handout 5)

Students with multiple disabilities

Select activities as appropriate

If possible, collaborate with their teachers to incorporate their other disabilities; develop an “All About Me” portfolio project

Students who are blind/use braille

Most activities already apply to all students with VI in academic settings

Consider incorporating braille/technology into lessons


Student Work Sample 2 – Interviewing & Social Skills

Student- Struggling braille reader, avoids all literacy activities

PBL/ECC Social Skills Unit – “Disagreeing with Adults”

Interviewed teachers to learn appropriate ways to disagree

Decided independently that she should take notes on her BrailleNote during interviews

The STUDENT CHOOSE to engage in braille literacy because she found a meaningful reason!


Handout 4: Bank of Portfolio Activities

See Handout 4 (Bank of Activities) for sample PBL activities/skills in all 9 areas of the ECC.

When developing a rubric for each student, consider long- and short-term needs.

Students may repeat some activities 2-3 times over the course of their school career as they mature/their accommodations & understanding about themselves evolves.

Every student should have a unique portfolio…but you don’t need to have a portfolio goal every year—traditional IEP goals are more appropriate to measure student progress in certain areas.

Include space for future activities so if new areas of concern arise during the IEP year, it can be incorporated into the current goal.


AccommodationsProsConsLP and LP Test(LP: Large Print)Less Strain On Eyeseasier 2 concentrate on test because I'm aloneThings blown up to precise size neededKeeps me away from friends :(Lol :)Hat and sunglassesBlocks the irritating sun from my eyesLooks cool Lol :)I can see more clearlyEasy 2 forgetNone others lol :)MonocularLess strain on eyesEasier to see from far awaySporting eventsCan see a ball in a kick returners hand when he runs to the 20 then jukes a hefty linebacker at the 30 trucks the kicker at the 40 and outruns the speedy corner to the end zoneLooks nerdyit hits me in the face when I’m sweating in PE class at the gym at ------ Elementary School with a teacher named Mrs. ----- and an epic gym with lol style equipment

Student Work Sample


Accommodations Pros & Cons


Student Work Sample 4 – College Planning

College Planning


Driving Question

Outline enough information so that a high school student with a visual impairment would understand where to get disability services and at least 3 resources or accommodations they could get if they attended Virginia Tech or William and Mary.




grade student

Mini Lesson Topics Included

Role of disability services / no TVI after high school graduation

Navigating unfamiliar website

Summarizing information

This PBL spanned four 30-minute sessions

Completed college search on


Website prior to this



College Planning, Continued

Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech has a program for disabled students


is called services for students with disabilities. ( SSD.) They provide different  accommodations for visually impaired students. Some are extended test time, and online enlarged text books if you would like more info go to the link:



William & Mary

William & Mary have a special website for disabled students. the good thing about the program is that every semester they check in with you so if something is not working then you just have to wait till the end of the semester or if it is


then you can just talk to them about it immediately. You can also find CCTV’s in two different locations around campus. Also William & Mary make sure that the faculty makes their classes accessible.   


Student Work Sample 5 –Mentoring & Low Vision Exam

Partner students at different schools to help them connect to other students with visual impairments.

Allows students to learn about different accommodations or resources from peers while giving a truly authentic audience for PBL activities– also a real reason to (practice) talking about their disability and accommodations.

Video Clip –



and 1


grade students were paired up and recorded about one video message a month for each other.

In this video, the 4


grade student had recently had a low vision exam, and is giving advice to the 1


grader who is having a low vision exam for the first time later that month.


Portfolio Goals & the IEP

Bring draft portfolio rubric to the IEP, and review each item (briefly).

Be prepared to edit and revise the portfolio based on IEP team feedback.

By outlining the portfolio in the IEP there is a transparency and credibility to what the TVI is teaching

Increased respect for TVI’s time and effort.

TVI expectations are clear to the student, and they will work for the perceived highest grade possible.

Do students do well (earn 3’s or 4’s) on activities?

Yes, because I don’t move onto the next activity until they’ve mastered the concepts in a given activity.


List of Handouts

Handout 1: Why Portfolios and Sample Goals

Handout 2: High School Sample Rubric

Handout 3:


School Sample Rubric

Handout 4: Bank of Activities

Handout 5: Accommodations


Handouts available at:





Contact info:

Rachel Schles,

Thank you!