In Our Words

Learning Focused Conversations
Learning Focused Conversations

Learning Focused Conversations

by Shanel Catasti, ES Vice-Principal and PYP Coordinator

Students, parents and teachers are all valued as contributors to the reporting process, with each sharing in the responsibility for learning and accounting for progress.

Since students are at the center of all reporting, it follows that they are a part of the reporting procedure.

Conferences which include students, parents and teachers keep all stakeholders informed about the progress of learning. They allow students to see the most significant adults in their lives being actively involved in their learning and demonstrating a commitment to support them.

Parent, Teacher, Student Conferences (PTSC), or Three-way conferences, actively involve parents, students and teachers in reflecting on student achievement, discussing progress and setting future learning goals.

Conversations in the PTSC are exclusively focused on learning, rather than on grades. Students discuss their learning and understanding with their parents and teacher, who are responsible for supporting the student through this process.

By students setting their own learning goals, they can identify the areas that need improvement, and can gain confidence in articulating how they will achieve this.

When parents have the opportunity to ask questions and share a dialogue with their child around learning, it helps them to make plans towards supporting their child's learning at home.

When teachers facilitate the learning conversation, they support the students and parents by clarifying, elaborating and responding to specific questions and concerns.

This process allows students to pose the question: 'What do I need to do next to improve my learning?'

PTSC are designed to achieve one or more of the following goals:

● to help students demonstrate evidence of learning

● to teach students the process of reflection and self-evaluation

● to facilitate the development of students' organisational and oral communication skills

● to increase their self-confidence

● to encourage open dialogue about learning between students, parents, and teachers

● to increase parent understanding of their child's learning

By adopting an open-ended, learning-focused structure toward conducting PTSC, we hope that students are inspired to accept personal responsibility for their learning with the support of nurturing adults to guide them. In his book Clarity in the Classroom: Using Formative Assessment, Michael Absolum (2006) highlights the importance of involving the students in learning conversations:

"If the focus is to be kept on learning, and the ownership of the learning with the child, then the best person to talk about the learning is the learner. Providing an opportunity for students to tell their family what they know can significantly assist with that learning."

PTSC are only one context for learning conversations to take place. We hope that such valuable conversations can continue beyond these three-way conferences so that students are encouraged to be active participants in improving their learning.