Record your ideas about your current communication practices. Reflect on the following: How do you currently communicate with others about student learning? How are students involved? How could you increase student involvement? What kind of balance is best for the students with whom you work? Do your students need to be doing more? How could you simplify the process so they can do more?
Davies devotes this chapter to an issue of extreme importance: communicating about learning. Davies sums up the necessity to have proper communication with your students in a single comment: “When students communicate with others about their learning, they come to understand what they have learned, what they need to learn, and what kind of support may be available to them” (86). Students should communicate with their teachers, parents and peers, as it will help them to understand their own learning, as well as help others to interpret the learning. Davies asserts, “There are two parts to successful communication about learning: 1. Students collect and demonstrate their learning. 2. Audiences respond with feedback” (86). Throughout the text, Davies intermittently discusses the importance of giving students the accountability and responsibility to collect their learning and share it with others, and she uses several sample feedback documents to show how important it is that the audience become involved in the presentation. This communication will not only benefit students and teachers because it provides clarity on what they do or do not understand, but it will also act as a venue for parents to keep up to date and become involved in their child’s education. Davies conveys that providing feedback is essential to improvement, so students must actually read the feedback to make changes. As I have mentioned in a previous post, communication is key to learning and improvement.
Because I do not yet have a classroom of my own, I will address the questions in a hypothetical manner and use examples from my previous field placements when needed. In both my Grade 2 and Grade 8 placements, the communication was initiated and conducted by the teacher. I believe that has something to do with the age and maturity of the students, as well as the strategies that those teachers found worked well for them. I plan to lead many conversations in my classroom, but I hope that my students will also take the initiative to begin those conversations as well. I think using writing by entrance or exit slips, journals, etc., and oral means of communication through class discussions will be the main tools that I use to communicate with my students. With the Grade 8 class that I taught, I led the conversations for the majority of the time, but I also asked guiding questions to further prompt my students.
As I am still in university, my communication about student learning is mainly conducted in the classroom by the professors and/or other students through discussion, in which I participate. The majority of these discussions are either hypothetical situations, or the professor shares his or her past experiences. I hope that during my pre-internship I can have these discussions with my partner and co-operating teacher, similar to my other field placements but more in-depth. In the future, I would also talk with parents about their child’s learning in a three-way conference (teacher, student, parents). I think this would be good to use for all students, whether they are excelling or falling behind, as it shows that I will facilitate the learning and the student is accountable for his or her learning. Davies’ chapter suggests to have the students create monthly newsletters, and because my major is English I think I could incorporate this method smoothly. The newsletter could feature student work and have blurbs from the students about their learning in specific areas or units of study. It would also serve as a convenient study guide, in addition to being a means of communication. Similarly, with my Social Studies minor background, students would be able to create a class magazine. This would include articles written by the students; polls from the students (or within the school); feature student exemplars, art work, etc.; and the students could create visual representations of informations, such as pie or bar charts. Through using a newsletter or magazine, the students will not only be involved in the communication, but they will lead the communication. Students can also be involved in communicating their learning by co-designing a rubric or check list for assignments, selecting material to add to a portfolio, or choosing a method to approach an assignment (written work or a more creative option). I have many aspirations for incorporating an effective means of communication, but will have to wait until I have my own classroom and some experience in order to find out what works best for my students and I.
I think it is essential that my students be communicating their learning with me at least as much as I communicate the material for them to learn. I will need to find a balance that is appropriate for students, as not all students can communicate that much, or can do it in more concise ways.
My questions for you: how do you get students to take the initiative in communicating their learning through class discussion without teacher prompting? Is there a method of communication that works best for students who have difficulty communicating, especially ESL, EAL, or FIAP students?