Practice what you Preach

Practice what you Preach

So, here I am reflecting on my own learning.

This last week was conference week for my students. In the past I have had classes that averaged around 14 students so it was not onerous to meet and discuss learning with each student. I could easily fit all my conferences into 2-3 days. This year my average is approximately 22 students, and as a result, conferencing has taken that much longer. This semester I have only academic students; I expect more independent reflection from this group. This expectation may have caused me to overlook the needs of some of my students.

I realized I needed my students to prepare ahead of time, or I would need two weeks to complete all the conferences!

In Google Classroom I posted six of the overall expectations from the curriculum document and asked my students to assess themselves against it.

My instructions were to look at each of the expectations and ask themselves if they had exceeded, met or not met the expectation. I then asked that they find a piece of work or moment in class that would illustrate either their understanding or how they were improving.

The majority of my grade ten’s, and a strong contingent of my grade nines, came to the conferences prepared with notes, ready to discuss their learning. (Students are working on either independent or group assignments while I conference with their peers.)

For example, to explain how she is meeting the expectations for listening to understand one student said, “When I have questions about the story I am able to listen to the class talk about it and explain their opinions. When someone asked a question that I also had about the mom, I was able to listen to my peers and teacher to get the answer.”

My difficulty came when talking with students who either did not come prepared at all or who only reflected on their learning with minimal effort.

In answer to the same expectation as above, one student stated “I am able to understand people when they speak”. Uhmmm….. As a result, I had to spend more time asking the student questions and looking through their FreshGrade portfolio to find the evidence of their learning. It wasn’t that they didn’t have examples of their learning, they just weren’t sure how to organize and show their learning.

I could have done two things to avoid most of these issues.

1) The first time I asked my students to reflect on the expectations I showed them examples of what I was expecting. Obviously, this time not everyone needed this extra step, but some of them did. I could have posted examples on Google Classroom and invited students to check them out if they needed help.

2) I could have followed one of the hack suggestions from Starr Sackstein in Hacking Assessment.  She suggests creating an electronic form for students to fill in. I could have easily created a Google form to collect the information I was looking for. If I had done this, I would have only needed to touch base with those students who were still having difficulty. I could have given students a half class period to fill in the form, but also allowed students who needed more time to finish the form at home.

This would have freed up more of my in-class instruction time and provided time to concentrate on students who needed more direction. I would still need to talk with each student at some point, but it could be done at a different time. One on one conversation is so important for the student-teacher relationship, that it must never be skipped.  It just doesn’t always have to occur during conference week, especially if time is becoming tight.

In the end, I never feel that my time has been wasted when talking with my students. I learn so much as we discuss their learning. They honestly care about their progress and are eager to examine how they can make improvements in their work. I just need to make sure I maximize that precious classroom time.

Have you used an electronic form to conference with your students? Did you find it successful?


3 thoughts on “Practice what you Preach

  1. Karen, I just reflected on my conferences (and first quarter sans grades) here: I’ve had students fill in Google forms in the past. My problem with it is if it has to be finished outside of class. Unless students are filling it in on their own device, they have to answer “required” (by me) questions before they hit “submit.” If you’re going to use a Google form, either have it be done in class or out, but not “finish at home.” Many times, that doesn’t work. It is nice to have their responses all in one spot on a spreadsheet – you can also print them out for parents! Just make sure it can all be completed in one sitting. (My 2 cents.) 😉 Enjoy this journey!


    1. I should clarify that when I have 14 it means that they all have iep’s and it can feel like there are 25 of them LOL. I will consider myself blessed that I do not (at the moment) have over 30, but even when I do I hope for myself and my students that overall I do more than just provide triage- obviously on some days that is just the way it is. Keep swimming.


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