SCVi Seniors Share Learning, Reflections in Senior Defense Presentations

SCVi, charter school in Santa Clarita

By Michael Niehoff
Education Content Coordinator, iLEAD Schools

One of the greatest forms of higher-order thinking and learning is metacognition — or thinking about thinking. This includes planning, monitoring and assessing one’s understanding and performance. These reflective processes are especially important in project work, as learners must decide what strategies to use and how to use them. At SCVi, seniors demonstrate metacognition through their Senior Portfolio Defense Presentations.

Because sites were closed due to COVID-19, this year learners gave their Senior Portfolio Defense Presentations virtually. However, the presentations this year were as powerful as ever and had a significant impact on the seniors, their advisors and evaluators, according to SCVi Senior Defense Coordinator Cheryl Sena. 

SCVi sets out to create a learning environment where learners take responsibility for their education and reflect often on their own academic, social and emotional development. During the 2017-2018 school year, SCVi introduced Senior Portfolio Defense Presentations to their annual schedule.

“This seemed like the next step for our seniors,” Sena said. “The first year, we had the seniors present their defense to their advisory groups. Last year, the staff received training at another school that requires senior defenses as part of their graduation requirements.”

 SCVi incorporated the Senior Portfolio Defense Presentations into their schedule as a means to extend and build upon the Learner Showcase that all learners participate in from grades TK-12. Through the culminating presentation of the Senior Portfolio Defense, the learners’ years of experience become apparent. 

Sena and her team are very proud of SCVi’s seniors, their accumulation portfolio of work and their ability to articulate what they have learned during their tenure at SCVi. She said this process is relevant to them as learners and to their future endeavors. 

“This is how they learn to articulate their skills, challenges and how to present themselves to others — in a job interview and beyond,” Sena said. “Regardless of your education and career plans, it’s essential to be able to articulate what you can do and how it applies to any situation.”

The Senior Defense Presentation is a capstone project that extends well beyond the actual presentation, according to Sena. Seniors must also produce a digital leadership notebook, present an artifact or project that demonstrates the learning, and meet requirements of a detailed rubric. The Senior Portfolio Defense Rubric addresses mastery of knowledge, application of knowledge, metacognition and presentation. Seniors work with facilitators in both preparing and delivering the defense. Additionally, they connect their work to one of our iLEAD Learner Outcomes, which are as follows: college and career readiness, critical thinking, self-control, intrapersonal and interpersonal growth, intellectual curiosity, academic engagement, purpose, growth mind-set, social intelligence, grit, gratitude, zest, optimism.

Seniors from the Class of 2020 shared diverse, unique and powerful reflections. 

Kiara Gallegos, for example, focused on how SCVi helped her build grit, which she plans to use in her future as she majors in pre-med at Biola University. She plans to then further her studies at medical school to become an OBGYN and, ultimately, to help women in impoverished countries.

Another senior, Gabriel Flores, also exhibited grit to achieve the goal of exhibiting artworks for IB Art.

Another learner reflected on his own insecurities and discomfort taking risks. He noted that confidence wasn’t something he organically had, but he developed courage by facing his fears and doing the “hard stuff.”

SCVi facilitator Benjamin Williams, who teaches humanities and IB history/economics, said he enjoys the process of seeing learners connect to the purpose and application of learning.

“The learners realize this is an opportunity to articulate the main lessons school has provided them as they prepare for their next steps,” Williams said. “It’s an especially powerful process to watch some of these learners we’ve known since their freshmen year grow into leaders who are ready to take on their next challenges.”

Witnessing learners’ growth throughout high school is one of the many reasons SCVi facilitator Jodi Blinn, who teaches 9th and 10th graders, loves being a senior defense evaluator. 

“This is an opportunity for me to experience and reflect on the amazing growth and maturity these learners have achieved in their four years,” Blinn said. “They astound and humble me.”

This impactful experience is not reserved for SCVi facilitators. Community members and professionals are invited to be evaluators as well. 

Career Consultant April Grossinger, who has also been an SCVi parent since its inception, participated as an evaluator this year. She said, “Watching these young people articulate specific milestones in their educational careers filled with me a sense of pride and gratitude that SCVi exists. Each presenter was unique, and each focused on such different experiences. It was deeply moving and a true testament to the idea of giving learners voice and choice.” 

As a facilitator, Sena appreciates witnessing each learner’s culminating reflection of their high school journey. 

“I love seeing each senior and how they got this far,” Sena said. “Watching their ‘ahas’ about how their learning is directly impacting their next steps in life is amazingly powerful,” Sena said. 

To see a Senior Portfolio Defense Presentation example, see SCVi Senior Kiara Gallegos’ Senior Defense Presentation.