|Principal's Reflections 07/11/2008|
REFLECTIONS FROM THE WOOLF FISHER AWARD
Good schools depend on partnerships. Certainly, partnerships between teachers and families, but, particularly, learning partnerships between teachers and students.
If there were two dominant themes to emerge during my school visits in the United States, Norway and England in June and July, they were the importance of teacher-student dialogue and student voice.
Traditionally, teachers assessed and reported on student academic performance. It was basically one-way communication with little impact on subsequent learning. During the course or the unit of study teachers tended to remain cut off from information about what individual students were learning.
In 2008, the notion that students might be invited to reflect gainfully on a regular basis about their academic performance and take an active part in conversations with their teachers about their learning is now quickly becoming a norm.
There is no doubt that the greater the participation of students in decisions about their learning, the greater the likelihood of their developing competency as self-motivated, independent learners. Problem finders tend to make great problem solvers!
And the rewards for teachers are immense. As students at Springs progress through the different levels towards Year 13, they acquire the knowledge and skills needed to collaborate, research, analyse, arrive at findings, plan, design, present, produce or perform in an increasingly creative and sophisticated manner.
A more radical challenge to the old order has come with the increasingly widespread practice of teachers asking their students to evaluate their teaching in terms of its impact on their learning. Best practice in C21st secondary education involves teachers constantly tuning into and adjusting to the feedback of their students in what is more a lesson–by–lesson phenomenon, not just an end of module or course event.
Professor of Education at the University of Auckland, John Hattie, talks about the importance of making teaching and learning visible. It happens when teachers see learning through the eyes of the student, and when students see themselves as their own teachers.
Increasingly, the best American and British schools are organised today so that students regularly have the opportunity to give voice to their views about the meaning and value of the educational experiences offered to them.
At Valentines High School in East London student leaders across all levels have the opportunity to train and serve as Student Learning Consultants. The role involves observing lessons at the invitation of teachers and providing confidential feedback, much in the manner of a department head dedicated to teacher development. Interestingly, the teachers who volunteer to participate in the programme tend to be the younger ones!
The SLCs also represent the student body on appointments panels: no teacher is appointed without a student learning consultant being involved. And senior staff value their input to the extent that they are talking about feeling obliged to generate funds to pay consultancy fees!
All of this reinforces the belief that successful schools are places where teachers make great efforts to understand learning through the eyes of students and learning conversations between teachers and students happen all of the time.Ken Havill