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Talking with families about learning

September 17th, 2009

Some researchers at NZCER are currently working with a group of school leaders to try and answer this question: “How can whole school communities (staff, students, families) be provided with opportunities to engage with future focused ideas about education?” This project began with a workshop where school leaders and researchers talked about what things about school might need to change, and which school practices might be effective levers in bringing about this change.  Each school is now thinking about which particular lever they want to focus on over the next year or so.

Two schools have already decided on using three-way interviews as a lever for getting the whole school community to think about future focused ideas in education. One school has not done three-way interviews before. The principal decided to try this lever having listened to others at the workshop talking about the potential they thought these interviews had.  She is hoping that at these interviews teachers will use assessment data to talk to parents about their children’s progress in literacy and numeracy and then the (primary aged) students will show their parents examples of work that they think are evidence of what the teacher is talking about. The hope is that this will help the children become more involved in their own learning and at the same time make the “teacher speak” more accessible to parents in this diverse community.

We would really like to hear from anyone who has used three-way interviews in this way or who may have ideas about what leads to successful three-way conferences. What support do teachers/ children / parents need to make these interviews successful? Remember the focus of this project is on how to engage whole school communities in future focused ideas about education. All input welcome!

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  1. Miriam Tuohy
    | #1

    Interesting. I worry a bit that this “language of learning” issue, which seems to be cropping up all over at the moment, adds an extra barrier between families and schools, though. What benefit is there for parents and students in learning a contrived kind of edu-speak jargon, other than to figure out what the heck things like “thinking about our wonderings” means (I’m not kidding – couldn’t we just use ‘thinking’ or ‘wondering’?). What if schools decided to leave the jargon behind, as good communicators surely would, and use “the language most likely to be understood by everyone involved”. Then I wouldn’t feel like resorting to “the language of outrage”.

  2. Michael
    | #2

    I would add that 3 way conferences can work but will not necessarily work on their own. One missing factor is having a shared language with which to start a an interactive dialogue. It will take time to emerge. Having students take the language home will help which can be a useful role for homework. Another way is to have students take home their assessment profiles (or parts of) to share at home. Starting 3 way conference discussions with the learning that is exciting and provides a sense of achievement is also important. Assemblies, newsletters and websites are the way to continue sharing that language.

  3. | #3

    Hi Mary,
    Thanks for your comment and it is certainly an area we want to move into and one that we are thinking quite seriously about. What is the best way to engage the wider community with C21st ideas about education? Who are the best people to do this? How might we make a start in this area? All suggestions most welcome.

  4. Mary
    | #4

    Hi, Ally

    I notice in this posting that there is no mention of consulting directly with the (non-teaching) community themselves about how to make this partnership work more effectively – an yet I’m sure it must be part of the project.

    Can you expand on what’s happened on that side of it please?

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