Individual education meetings

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)

By JohnE777The IEMs were loosely structured around Hattie and Timperley (2007) questions about powerful feedback – “where am I going?”, “how am I going?”, “where to next?”

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
http://www.imdetermined.org/files_images/general/Student-Led%20Conferencesrbedits.ppt
http://www.educationworld.com/a_admin/admin/admin112.shtml

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Knowing where you are going – Setting meaningful goals

Clearly articulated learning goals are the key to maximising learning by allowing for more purposeful learning to occur. At Hobsonville Point Secondary School, learning goals allow for greater personalisation of learning across the three strands of our school curriculum – Big Projects, Learning Hubs, and Specialist Learning Modules.

Term one ended with student led individual education meetings (IEMs). During these meetings, students led their coach and their parents/whanau through their learning this term and used evidence of their learning to set new goals.

Prior to these meetings, I had led our learning community through some goal setting exercises. We started with the differences between learning goals and performance goals, based on Zimmerman’s research, and then collectively set learning goals. Setting a goal is in itself not enough – it is important to know the success criteria of the goal and the strategies needed to get there. The activity that I ran with the students is here.

Once the students were familiar with the learning goals, success criteria and strategies of goals, they worked in their hubs on a mix and match activity. Once they were happy with how they matched up the goals, they discussed the merits of each. Then it was onto business. They each set a goal based on their learning needs, established the success criteria for their goals, and devised some strategies. We used peer critiquing during this exercise – on the one hand, it gave the goal setter an extra perspective, particularly around the validity of the goals and/or strategies, and on the other hand the open discussions gave extra support for students who were struggling to set their goals. Once the goals were set, with clear success criteria and strategies, the students added them to their IEM summary document that they would be sharing during their meeting. Students in my learning hub mainly set two meaningful learning goals for term 2.

During the IEM, the student, coach and whanau all revisited the goals and looked at them in light of the learning conversation. Some goals were adjusted slightly, many had new strategies added to them in light of the assessment narratives derived by both the students and the teachers on the learning modules, some goals stayed the same. Each student’s goals are personalised and relevant. The final part of the IEM document that was shared with the student, coach and whanau was a set of agreed responsibilities in order for the goals to be met – the whanau, coach and student all stated what they needed to do to help in meeting the learning goals.

Examples of students’ goals:
To manage my learning so I am not rushed
To understand the full concept of place and space (key concept for T2)
To generate written reflections which are more detailed
To focus during the generating phase so I don’t end up being weary.
To take more risks in learning
To focus by identifying and planning to find more than one strategy or approach

Where to next?
It is one thing to set goals and another to have them as central to the student’s personalised learning path. The first step was to use these goals to help the students select appropriate modules for term 2. Module selection had to be completed the day following IEMs. As a learning coach, I was able to guide them in making module selections that would allow them to meet their goals and use the strategies that we had agreed upon as their goals were so clearly articulated and relevant to their needs.

The problem with goal setting in secondary school is how to communicate the information to all teaching staff – for HPSS that is going beyond the learning coach and sharing with big project guides, module teachers and extra-curricular leaders. My responsibility as a coach in many of the IEMs was to share the goals with all teaching staff. I am planning on using KAMAR to do this so that any teacher can see the goals of the students. I love the idea of empowering our teachers to know our learners and their learning needs, and for teachers to plan accordingly. I see KAMAR as being a tool for all teachers to provide feedback on students and how much more meaningful will that feedback be if they are aware of the learning goals.

However, that is not enough. I think that goals need to be visible so I am planning on displaying each students goals in our hub area – inspired by the wonderful teachers at HPPS – and using visual means to track progress towards the goal (watch this space!). Our student-coach conferencing in term 2 will focus around progress of learning, in light of these goals, and figuring out where to next.