Involving Parents in Assessment
Current formative assessment practices are vastly different to the assessment methods experienced by the parents of today’s school students. Involving parents in formative assessment is a useful way of engaging with parents on a meaningful level. It also has numerous benefits for students.
It’s entirely understandable that parents educated decades ago will not be familiar with the notion of how they can play an active role in their child’s assessment for learning. After all, their parents probably only learnt of an issue in the classroom once they received a report card, by which time any opportunity to help had long passed. Disappointing results were punished, or sighed over, positive results were met with reward or relief, and that was the extent of parental involvement.
How times have changed.
We cannot underestimate the influence of parents (and guardians) upon their children’s learning success. Consequently, it is important for teachers to communicate their assessment strategies, and the reasons they are used, right from the outset. Once parents understand the role they can play in helping their children achieve success, they usually delight in being able to be part of the process. In fact, research shows that one of the most significant factors in the success of assessment for learning is regular and open communication with caregivers.
So how can you involve parents in assessment?
Take time to explain the process
Parents new to AfL need to how it helps their child progress. Call a meeting at the start of the year, invite parents and students to come and find out about how assessment for learning works in your classroom. Explain how making mistakes assists learning, that it’s beneficial to take risks with your safe learning environment. Agree that giving and receiving feedback, taking time to self-assess, and developing student autonomy, are essential elements of effective learning.
Communicate, communicate, communicate!
As a teacher, you are usually unaware of the educational experiences of your students’ parents. Yet past experiences can make parents very wary of their children’s teachers, or bring out an unpleasantly pushy side. The more you communicate with parents, the more they will trust that you’re looking after the best interests of their kids. And thus, the more they will support your efforts.
Email additional ‘homework’ questions to parents
Parents love to know what their kids are learning about. Email them at the start of each topic with some suggested questions to ask. Send regular communications updating parents on their child’s progress. This is an easy way of involving parents in the learning journey. It helps parents feel they can contribute to the classroom. You may find parents decide to support this learning through their own excursions and conversations, a fantastic and beneficial outcome!
Share work samples regularly
Parents often don’t have much idea about what standard of work their child should be producing. Simply comparing their child’s work to others they see around the classroom doesn’t tell the whole story. Regularly sharing work samples with parents enables them to get a better appreciation of their child’s progress. They will, therefore, be better placed to understand and support any additional scaffolding or extension work you utilise. Using portfolios can be an ideal way to share work samples and encourage student autonomy.
Provide written feedback where appropriate
AfL practitioners know the teaching and learning benefits of providing meaningful feedback, but often this feedback is provided verbally. When students communicate it back to parents the essence is often lost. In providing meaningful written feedback to both students and parents, you can better ensure your feedback isn’t lost in translation.
Hold student-led parent teacher conferences
A growing trend is the use of student-led parent-teacher conferences to communicate student’s progress. The idea behind this is that students are able to explain why they are progressing in a certain way. This helps children become more self-aware in their learning habits.
A fair amount of preparation is necessary for successful student-led conferences. You must create a framework for students to lean on during the conference. Ask students to select key pieces in which they felt they learned the most, or that best illustrates their learning. Students may write a reflection on their learning journey and study habits, and set goals for the next semester. In the days leading up to the conference, teachers should role play with the students to enable them to practice leading the conference.
Schools that operate student-led conferences typically report that these are beneficial for students. Additionally, they suggest that most parents appreciate students taking responsibility for their learning. It is worth noting that schools offering student-led conferences also typically offer traditional conferences for parents who also find it valuable to receive teacher-led information.
As well as providing opportunities for parents to understand and appreciate their children’s efforts, signs of progress and achievement over time, involving parents in assessment can provide teachers with useful information to assist with each child’s learning. It also helps parents better support student motivation and learning. Parents welcome this opportunity to be involved in assisting and improving their children’s outcomes. As teachers, we need all the support we can get. So open those doors of communication!
Article by Kirsten Lopez
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