Teachers being crammed into a school for parent interviews whilst trying to explain a students’ learning and progress in the term over the cacophony of every other conversation are not part of the way that we do things to Hobsonville Point Secondary School.
Instead, our recently held student-led Individual Education Meetings reinforce the vision and values of our school “learners enjoy innovative personalised learning, engage through powerful partnerships and are inspired through deep challenge and inquiry to achieve academic and personal excellence.” (From HPSS.school.nz)
We held the meetings in the final week of the term. Students led their parents/whanau and their learning coach through their celebrations and progressions towards their goals for term one, with the coach their to support and challenge them along the way. The meetings we held in our learning commons, so parents/whanau could experience what it was like to be a learner at HPSS. Students discussed their learning progress with evidence from a range of sources: from their work in their modules, big projects, learning hubs, from their regular reflections on their learning and self-assessments of their learning modules, from assessment narratives generated by their module teachers.
Students at HPSS are being empowered to take a more active role in their learning. When discussing IEMs with students in my learning hub, many were nervous, scared or feeling out of their depth. One student asked me why he had to lead the conference, when in reality it was my job as a teacher. Moments like these are too good to miss! The throw away comment led to a great discussion, including a role play, around what it is like to have no voice, no say, to be spoken about -sometimes spoken to – but not to be the speaker. My role as a learning coach is to support and challenge the students. For some, running their first IEM was daunting but a realistic challenge. Most of the preparation work was done with the learning coach and hub in the weeks leading up to the IEM. For other students, my job as coach was to support them by taking the lead in some aspects of the IEM – which was negotiated in advance. The coach acts as the third participant in the conference, an advocate for students, the conduit and filter for the evidence generated by different module teachers and the big project guides.
IEMs work for our students because of the learning relationships already established between the student and the learning coach, and the learning coach and the parents/whanau. Our regular one-to-one conferences which I wrote about earlier in the year build those strong relationships. Read that post here.
During the meetings, the students, coach and parents/whanau finalised the learning goals for the next term, the success criteria of the goals, the strategies needed to meet them, and the roles that each participant would play in enabling these goals. More on goal setting at HPSS here. It was imperative that all three partners in learning – the student, their family, their coach – take some responsibility as each plays a vital part in empowering the student. The personalised learning goals are going to form the basis for discussions during the student-coach conferences next term as well as students explaining “where they are going” and “how they are going” during next terms IEMs and use the information gathered to figure out “where to next?”
At the end of the IEMs, students, coaches and parents/whanau all have a take away – each gets a copy of the IEM summary document (which was co-constructed and finalised during the meeting) and each gets a copy of the assessment narratives on modules (student self-assessment and teacher generated feedback). Essentially these documents become the school report. What I like about these though is that there are no surprises – the student has shared, and documented, both the celebrations of their learning and acknowledged where there is some progression but the student is not quite there yet. The students and teacher evaluations of learning use the same format for module assessment – each has commented on where they are going, how going and where to next – and both voices have an equal weighting.
This was the first student-led IEM at HPSS. I imagine that things will change as we grow into our new school, as we grow in size, as our practice changes and evolves. However, I also imagine that IEMs will be a stayer. They must, as they empower our students in their learning and build strong, positive connections with our families.
Links to other resources:
Information on student-led conferences in the New Zealand Curriculum – http://assessment.tki.org.nz/Reporting-to-families-whanau/School-stories/About-student-led-conferences
When students lead parent conferences – http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational_leadership/apr96/vol53/num07/When_Students_Lead_Parent-Teacher_Conferences.aspx