“The primary purpose of grades is to communicate meaningful information” (O’Connor, 2009, p. 219).
It’s important during conference time that the communication focuses on the process of learning. There are multiple types of conferences that allow teachers and students to be involved in sharing student progress and achievement. Involving students in conferences allows students to reflect on their own learning, identify learning goals, and celebrate academic success. Providing parents with evidence of student learning and details about their child’s progress will help them have a better picture of their child’s achievement and the next steps needed to improve learning. O’ Connor (2009) states, “Portfolios, expanded formative reporting, effective informal communication, and student-involved conferences each provide better information than grades” (p. 238). Instead of using primarily grades to summarize achievement, teachers should provide students and parents with detailed feedback that enhances the learning process.
Currently, I have students complete goal-setting forms at conference time. Students set goals for academics and work habits (artifact: SettingGoals1). If the student attends the conference he or she will share the goals with his or her parents. I think it has been an effective reflection tool for students and also a way to involve parents in helping their child reach his or her goals. Students then have the opportunity to reflect on their goals and set new ones at the following report card periods (artifact: SettingGoals2).
Although the goal-setting forms are tools for communicating student progress with parents, they do not always focus on a specific learning target and students haven’t had practice identifying strengths and weaknesses of their work. Chappuis, Stiggins, Chappuis, & Arter (2012) state, “Prior to the feedback conference, make sure students understand the learning targets at the focus of the discussion” (p. 388). The goal setting would be more powerful if students had work samples and were given feedback that they could reflect on. Since conferences often cover multiple content areas in the primary grades, there wouldn’t be enough time to reflect and set goals for multiple learning targets. Instead, I think it would be appropriate for students to reflect on feedback from their work samples at the end of a unit or before the summative assessment. Students could look at multiple formative assessments and complete the feedback conference form in Figure 12.3 in Classroom Assessment for Student Learning (Chappuis et al., 2012, p. 389). Students could also complete this artifact, Self-Assessment, after a lesson or after receiving feedback from an assignment or homework practice. The feedback forms could be sent home to communicate students’ progress with parents. This way the feedback would be timely and parents would be aware of students’ progress with specific learning targets prior to the conference. If parents are aware of their child’s progress throughout the learning, the help they provide their child at home will hopefully help their child catch up, instead of waiting until conference time when their child is already behind and we are ready to move on to the next unit.