Teachers: Always Learning– Communicate to Families
As I strive to become a better teacher, coach, and learner, I search for resources that help me grow, offering ideas that I can adapt to my situation. In changing my teaching to meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s worlds, I need to share with and bring parents and families into the journey. After all, they were taught the old, factory model way; it’s all they know. Teachers today take the best of yesterday and move it forward.
One of the resources I review is the P21: Partnership for 21st Century Learning.
I discovered there two important resources for families, so they can understand why schools are moving to more collaborative and connected lessons and projects:
I found these blog posts:
Blog Post with parent resources: What is 21st Century Learning all about?
Blog Post on Thinking Classrooms and Student Self-Assessment: How to Build An Empowering Classroom Culture
What about the basics?
What about the 3Rs? We still teach the foundation, but in different, more personalized ways with the help of technology, and include the 4C’s –the 4Cs — critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.
Learning today, fully sixteen years into the 21st Century, includes the three ‘Rs’ of reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic, but also focuses on skills now essential to a connected world, essential for the adult world of our students: the 4Cs — critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. Here’s how we’re moving forward:
Instead of standardized, sequential lessons completed by oneself, students learn by doing, by asking questions and working together to solve problems and present their learning in ways “above and beyond” the paper and pencil strategies of last century.
Of course, that means 21st Century Learning is as much process as it is static information and final product; it’s more than anything “google-able”: it’s a whole lot of risk-taking, questioning, struggle, and feedback from teachers and peers to guide the process so students achieve success.
Feedback rather then grades?
Feedback is not a grade, it’s a guide. Feedback is a guide much better than a grade because the feedback shows what is done well, and what steps would lead to improvement and success. It truly is no child left behind, and without the need for tests.
But if there are no tests or grades, how do we show our students are learning?
The Journal: Panel: Ditch Grades Now: Focus on Student Learning shares the work of Mark Barnes:
Instead of grading students on their work, Barnes had “a conversation” with them. He used an online gradebook, but instead of applying grades or points or percentages, he recorded feedback and discussions with students. Instead of judging his students’ abilities at an arbitrary point in time by assigning a score, he guided them through a checklist that was designed to help them progress to where they needed to be. [emphasis added] ~Mark Barnes
With a checklist and a conversation, students can self-assess their work, discuss with peers and teacher how to improve, and therefore, build their success. In the same article, an explanation:
“We have something far better than scores when report card time rolls around,” he explained. “We have artifacts and feedback that provide a clear picture of learning. When a teacher reviews the body of work from a student and asks, ‘Where does this fit on a traditional grade scale?’ the student understands and provides accurate responses in almost every instance — at least as accurate as a traditional grade can provide.” ~Mark Barnes
Many schools still give grades, but it’s not an average, or filled with zeros for unfinished work, it’s based on high expectations personalized to students in conversation with students and teachers. It’s rather like your supervisor or team member at work explaining what is needed, checking that your work fits, and offering suggestions when needed — so that the product is as expected and needed with quality. That’s much better and more realistic than a one-time test or assignment; it honors the goal and the student; it is good teaching.
For an example of how that works in the classroom see “Idea for Rubrics.”
And think about it, how do we really learn? We talk to others and share after we try. We keep trying until we get it. The research supports this, especially with feedback. To know what to expect, here’s an article on how to give feedback by John Hattie, the author of Visible Learning, where Tony Buzan’s work is also included:
eminent psychologist Tony Buzan points out, practice only helps people to repeat what they are doing. If what they are doing is incorrect, people internalise the wrong thing. Feedback lets students know how they are doing while there is still time to adjust and perfect their efforts.[emphasis added]
The great part of this is student understanding of the process, the content, and the purpose. So when grade time arrives, students can share their work, explain what they did well, how they revised, and what could still be done to improve. As your child explains this, listen. You will hear knowledge and skills, content, confidence, humility, pride, and a command of their own learning.
So, to our families, we invite you into our classrooms to see:
- projects and work wrapped in foundational skills in process and basics with authentic purposes and audiences
- the four Cs: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity
- checklists and steps to guide success, personalized for students
- ongoing feedback from peers and teachers [and families] to guide success
- mutual grading from student and teacher founded in expectations learned and developed with feedback
- an open door for families to visit and volunteer, offering their own feedback
I think, if families think back to those school days remembered most, it will be the times where people worked together, a project, a collaboration. That’s the goal everyday: to have authentic learning with deeper learning.
I hope this clarifies the transformation of classrooms for families.
If you have comments, questions, or any other resources, please share below.