I am a great believer in student voice. I believe in asking students for their views, their insights, their perspectives. Input from students are factored into each of the designs of our new and planned learning spaces. Even the soon to be completed Beaconsfield project, which commenced work in Term 4 2015, has involved seeking advice and commentary from students.
How do you like to learn? What facilities would make that more effective for you?
The students are the focus of all our efforts here, as they are the focus of yours at home.
Their views matter. Their insights are valuable. Their voice needs to be heard.
I read an interesting article by Greg Whitby recently. He is the Director of Catholic Education in the Diocese of Parramatta. He provides a lot of challenging and stimulating leadership on Catholic schooling that is read all around the country, as well as overseas.
Here is what he said:
“I’ve written in the past about the ‘traditional’ ways in which student learning is communicated to parents. The written school report and the parent-teacher interviews are products of another era when we didn’t have access to the internet and emails. Every school has their own version of the report, which can provide a lot of information or sometimes little information about a child’s progress. Then there’s the parent-teacher interview, which, in some cases, can be education’s version of speed-dating. These communication channels are usually dominated by one voice: the teacher’s.
In a world where student voice is becoming increasingly recognised, many schools here and overseas are adopting Student Led Conferences (SLCs). The aim of SLCs is for parents to see learning from the student’s perspective. This happens by allowing students to report back to parents on their learning journey.
Some primary schools begin their SLCs in kindergarten with teachers gently guiding students through the process. In one primary school I am aware of, students role-play beforehand in order to develop their confidence and presentation skills. Teachers see this as a valuable learning opportunity in itself.
Secondary school students have the opportunity to dive deeper into their learning by reflecting on their individual strengths, subject highlights and areas for improvement. Teachers will provide feedback along the way giving parents an interactive and 360 degree view of their child’s learning rather, than the one dimensional view that characterises the traditional parent-teachers interview model.
One of the great stories I heard about SLCs was from a parent of a child with additional learning needs. The student who is now in Year 2 was leading a SLC recently and had to politely tell her teacher to refrain from talking so that she could lead the discussion. The parent found this approach more insightful and meaningful than a written report.
I believe that over time, SLCs will end up replacing the standard parent-teacher interview as we develop new ways of communicating with parents in real-time and new opportunities for students to direct and reflect on their learning.”
For many years St Francis Xavier College has encouraged students to attend what we now call Progress Meetings. Years ago, they were known as Parent-Teacher meetings.
And the name mattered, because typically only those two spoke. About the student.
Now we want a different conversation. We want to hear from students. We want them to talk about what they are learning, how they are learning and what they want to learn more about and get better at.
So, they need to be there.
As parents and carers, I ask you to do what you can to ensure the students are in attendance, and that they talk.
To support all of this, I will ask that teachers raise these issues with students in their classes so that they are prepared in some way.
In this way, we can start to move to a model where students take deeper ownership of their learning progress, where teachers can hear feedback from students that will better position them to care for each of them as a unique learner.
One of the defining values of St Francis Xavier College that I have inherited and absolutely am committed to is what has historically been called, in Latin, cura personalis.
This translates as care for the individual person.
And we can better care for students if we know more about what they need.
So, let’s hear from them at this term’s series of Progress Meetings.
Year 10 – 11 Progress Meetings:
Years 7 – 9 Progress Meetings:
5 September and 20 September
Year 12 Progress Meetings:
Vincent J Feeney