Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Power of Conversation in Student Learning

It took me eight years of teaching to come to the realization of how important conversation is in student progress and assessment.

It sounds sort of stupid to say this. But maybe I'm not alone. So that's why I'm writing this post.

Structured, purposeful conversation can reveal so much about where the student is and where she needs to go next.

We did an inquiry project asking the students to find their own answer to the question, "How can Calgary be considered a modern Renaissance city?" Students chose a field to focus on, like an art, medicine, science, or architecture, to name a few. Built into the project was a series of checklists, that were steps students needed to take to fully understand their topic and be ready to answer the question. But here's the key: the students needed to have the checklist checked by me.

When students felt they were ready, they called me over and I checked their work. Actually, no, I didn't check their work, we had a conversation about their work. If students were not at a point where they truly demonstrated an understanding of that particular checklist, I gave them feedback and we talked about some ideas of what they could do next to ensure a more complete understanding.

And it was beautiful.

I understood, more than any other time in my entire eight-year-career, what the students understood and had learned, and what they hadn't. Maybe this comes with professional confidence - I trust my own judgement rather than having to rely on a rubric to do it for me.

The next step for me is to figure out how to better document those conversations in a way that makes it easy to come back to. I've tried video before but I find I never go back to them.

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