I recently read The Unschooled Mind by Howard Gardner. It was focused primarily on how to change and improve public education in order to foster true understanding (rather than the “teaching to the test” that goes on too much of the time). One of the concepts that I found really intriguing is that of “process-folios.”
Many unschoolers track their learning by creating yearly portfolios, which display some aspects of the subjects they’ve been studying. Often these consist of finished products such as artwork, reports, workbook pages and the like.
A process-folio, which focuses on a particular project, goes deeper. Here’s the idea. As you work on a project, you tend to generate papers and other items along the way. Save all of these for your process folio. They might be jotted notes, journal entries, first drafts, fabric swatches, feedback from colleagues or peers, photos, printed e-mails or other communications, doodles and drawings, lists of CDs or books that inspired you…whatever materials in some way contribute to or inform the final product or performance. In the book, Gardner related how students were encouraged to seek input from peers and teachers on their work while it was in progress, and to write journal entries about how the project was going. You should even hang onto ideas that proved to be a dead end or were changed along the way.
When you are finished with the project, compile this archive of items into a process-folio. You can then get an idea of your own creative process, find what worked and what didn’t, note what support you might seek out next time, and even discover inspirations for your next undertaking. You can also share your process-folio, if you choose, with project partners, colleagues or family members.
I think this is a great idea for unschoolers, and also for anyone working on creative projects. I plan to do this for all of my current creations, and I’ve already begun to compile in folders the printed drafts and notes I tend to hang onto anyway. Now that I think about it, maybe one of the reasons I’m so drawn to this idea is that I tend to be a pack rat when it comes to paperwork. Oh well, it’s good to put to new use the stacks of papers that clutter my desk and bookshelves!