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Saturday, 25 April 2015

Celebrating Learning: Ask the students! Ask the teachers!

My birthday is coming up. Some people get super excited with celebrations – whatever happens, they know it will be great! I envy them. It isn’t my experience. Don’t get me wrong. I’m really appreciative to be healthy and looking forward to another fabulous year. My family loves to celebrate special occasions with me. What’s the problem? I guess I’ve yet to overcome years and years of celebrating my birthday having just moved to a new community, a new school, and not having any friends yet. Or perhaps it is the memory of my four older brothers and their idea of having fun – so different than mine. All I can say is celebrations of significant events planned by others can make me nervous. There are too many unknowns.

That’s why I have always appreciated teachers who understand that children often see ‘celebrations of learning’ as anything but occasions to celebrate. Cresta McIntosh is a educator who gets it! I was lucky enough to spend time in her classroom as she was preparing students to celebrate their learning with their parents with an at-home conference.

We know there are 7 steps to students learning through the assessment process. 

Cresta very thoughtfully:
  1. involved students in the assessment process,
  2. made sure they understood the learning destination and the purpose for learning,
  3. provided samples or models to help students understand quality and development,
  4. involved students in co-constructing criteria to build their understanding of quality and the language of assessment,
  5. involved students in relevant and realistic self- and peer assessment on a regular basis,
  6. involved students from the beginning in collecting, selecting, reflecting, and projecting (setting goals) based on evidence of their learning,
  7. made sure students had a significant role in communicating evidence of learning to others, both formally and informally.
When I was observing in the class, Cresta’s students were preparing for an at-home conference. The students had been involved in two at-school parent-student-teacher conferences at the end of the first and second terms. They had experience selecting key pieces of evidence of their learning. Now it is the end of the third term. The students and their parents know the process. And Cresta, having supported students in this area and observed how they have done, is confident students can conduct the conference at home.

Review the purpose of the conference.
Reviewing purpose of evidence and conference
Review the process of collecting evidence in relation to learning outcomes (curriculum) and learning goals (student set).
Review criteria for success.
Select evidence and explain what makes it evidence of learning.
Reflect on how they have improved and grown as learners.
Share with their teacher.
Practice with another student.

And head home with portfolios to celebrate with their family.
Student selecting evidence of learning.

It was a privilege to be present in this classroom. Amazing learning conversations! Amazing evidence of learning collected and shared! Amazing commitment to learning by all.

I started by explaining why celebrations make me nervous. It was because there were too many unknowns. That isn’t true of the celebrations in this class. Students know exactly what needs to be learned. They understand quality. They understand evidence. They have practice using the language of assessment as they have engaged in  self- and peer assessment. They are ready to show how much they’ve learned. There is a clear structure they have used at least twice before with their parents. There shouldn’t be any surprises!
Practicing at-home conference
What a powerful celebration of learning!

How about you and your students?

How do you celebrate learning?

Please share – here or with your colleagues.

All our best,

Anne, Sandra, and Brenda

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