Sunday, June 28, 2009

Reporting to Parents

Have been thinking a lot about reporting to parents. How should it happen?, when should it happen? and what should be shared? Most would agree that school has changed somewhat yet the reporting mechanisms that are used are often based on traditional assessment measures. We now understand that most sophisticated thinking can not be measured in a pencil and paper test. We generally agree that one can become more brainy the more you think. Thankfully, our notion of intelligence is far broader than once believed. How do we however communicate, show or report this to parents. The reports I have viewed recently grade students against individual curriculum areas to indicate where a child is at and sometimes offers how much effort the teacher percieves the child to be putting in. Our reporting mechanisms reinforce that knowing stuff is more important than knowing how to learn. The picture is quite frankly imbalanced.
There is fine line between what a community expects from reporting mechanisms (how it was done when we went to school) and using vastly different reporting mechanisms to both educate parents and show a balanced picture of their child's achievements. How do you effectively show growth in a children ability to manage self and relate to others. No pencil and paper test will do that. As identified by our new curriculum document these are important dispositions, attitudes and skills needed for a child's successful future. Our staff is trialling a new year of year report for parents to incorporate students ability to be a Life Long Learner (reflect, question, persevere, make connections etc)
No real answers - trying out some ways of showing progression in kid speak in some of these far more qualitative areas. I guess it's small steps.
Your thoughts?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Student Led Conferences - Feedback

What fun I have had interviewing students, parents and teachers about our recent first go at student led conferences. The feedback has been incredibly positive. Some of the themes coming through from the feedback so far is

  • It's great to have more time, you are not in such a hurry

  • Parents said I now understand more about what my child actually does in class.

  • Students said - it's better when the teacher is not there because it makes you take more ownership, I actually know where I am at in my learning.

  • Teacher's said they were amazed at how their students took responsibility and worked from an agenda rather than a script. Science experiments were on some classes agendas

I have been reflecting since about what I observed and heard. The process seemed so much more natural. Such a strategy I believe does enable students to step up and talk about how they are going in their learning, and what their next learning steps are. Surely when students are in the driving seat of their learning it is more empowering and motivating for them. I am looking forward to debriefing further with our teachers to analyse the feedback and critique what went well and what needs improving.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Student Led Conferences - Student Thoughts

Today I visited the classrooms who are undertaking the first trial of student led conferences tomorrow afternoon. I took my good old faithful video with me to capture the student voice. What a delightful next half hour I had.
I was suitably impressed by the talk - the ownership these students demonstrated over their conference was impressive. They articulated the positive of having more time and a chance to really show their Mums and Dad's not just how they are going in their learning but also what they are learning in class. They said in the past we share our grades and then the teacher takes over. When asked if they felt it was a good or a bad thing that the teacher wasn't fully involved in the confderence - they smiled and said it's good. When probed a little further they explained "We have had to take responsibility for our selves and our learning. Knowing where we are in our learning and what our next learning steps are is something we need to own. It's up to us to persevere to get better." There were certainly a few nerves about, however students were excited about the conferences and sharing their learning with their parents.
Will keep you posted on the outcome.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Student Led Conferences - Putting the student in the driving seat

What are student led conferences all about?
We have been influenced recently by Professor John Hattie’s latest research published in his book Visible Learning. He has researched the top 100 interventions that lead to greater student achievement. Developing student’s ability to talk about their progress and learning comes near the top of his list. We believe students need to be able to answer questions like;
· How am I going?
· Where am I going?
· What is my next learning step?
The purpose of student led conferences is to put the student in the driving seat to share their learning with their parents or caregivers. Teachers have observed how students are taking more ownership over their learning, knowing they will be sharing their progress and learning with their parents. Teachers are present to support and prompt individuals if necessary however they do not partake in each individual conference.

The Student Led conferences are a celebration of learning. They are an initiative to further build our vision concept of student empowerment. We have shared with parents that they are not a forum to discuss behavioural concerns or for discussing matters directly with the teacher, we are encouraging parents to set a time outside of the student led conference if such things need to be addressed
How do they work?
Conferences can last up to 45 minutes. Five to six student led conferences run at the same time in the classroom. Each child has an agenda that they follow. Parents can be involved in a variety of activities throughout the 45 minutes such as looking through their child’s learning books, playing a game to support learning, talking about goals, carrying out a science experiement or reflecting on next learning steps.
Will keeep you posted on how our first conferences go this week - the teachers have been amazing at letting students take the lead and true ownership.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Learning is the Business

Schools like any business are organisations which are driven by a CORE business, what differs is the outcome. In business it is about making money, in education driving learning. It has continued to surprise me over the last decade that in spite of educations core business being that of learning we seem to spend little time talking about it.

What is learning? What conditions support learning? What are the barriers to learning deeply? How does the brain learn? what strategies help me continue to learn when I am stuck?

A few examples of questions that require time to unpack, dialogue about and reflect on for both teachers and their students.
The unrealistic pressure of covering content often only results in surface learning. To learn powerfully and deeply, decisions need to be made by the organisation about what students should be
1 – learning about what content will aid individuals in making sense of the world they live in and contribute creatively.
2 – develop the necessary ‘Learning Power’ as Guy Claxton terms or capacity to learn deeply and powerfully. Both need to be developed simultaneously.

Clarity about the end in mind profile of a student needs careful deliberation and dialogue. A futuristic vision of the knowledge, dispositions and values a student would need to be equipped with based on the principles embedded in the vision is essential in reframing 20th century mental models of coverage verses depth.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Time to Vision, Revision - Where to start?

Do you know what the vision and purpose of the organisation you are within is? Is it obvious to all stakeholders? Are you a newly appointed principal and wanting to make your mark? Is the current environment comfortable, worn out ready for a refresh?

What ever the purpose for visioning or re-visioning I would like to think it is well justified and far from being about any one persons ego.
To vision is to gain collective understanding, hope and clarity about an organisations future endeavours. It is about binding an organisations personnel in pursuit of greatness, creating momentum, direction and success for all.

Any such process could begin by asking questions like;
“What is the purpose of school?”
What should our school stand for?”
“What dispositions will help all our students succeed in the 21st century?”
“What do we need to consider that our past education has not?”

Such questions require processing and time to dialogue with colleagues. It is not something achieved in a one hour after school staff meeting!

Monday, June 1, 2009

What do Successful Teachers Do?

I have been reflecting a huge amount lately on what makes some teachers stand out a cut above the rest. I think it is quite simple really, they communicate effectively and proactively with parents. They get this right from the beginning. They are transparent with parents about their child's progress and it is communicated in parent friendly terms. It is often as simple as getting excited about an individual moving up a reading level or including adjectives in a piece of their writing - the success is shared and more often than not as and when it happens. I think teachers need to be strategic and savvy at working out at the beginning of each year which parents you need to be on the front foot with, and then work at getting the relationship right.
I am excited about the ease in which such communication and proactive action can be taken given most of our parents and caregivers have email. How neat for a parent to receive an email with a picture attachment sharing the science experience the class had that afternoon. Wouldn't that make for a great dinner conversation around the table that night. I know what I would think if I was the parent receiving that email. I would think - gosh this teacher is onto it, he/she cares, look at the great learning happening for my child etc etc.
From there the relationships with the children themselves are equally important.
Then and only then everyone can work in partnership to activate learning nd provide the stretch and rigor for individuals to reach their potential.