June 1, 2021
As the ending of this school year fast approaches, we most likely will be involved in reflecting on the year that was. We might even be asked some of these questions:
- What might be some ideas and strategies that we learned as a teacher or as a leader that we don’t want to lose sight of…that we want to take into our next year’s practice?
- What might be some things that we will be happy to leave behind?
- What might be some ideas and strategies that we learned about as a teacher or a leader that require further inquiry and exploration?
When we engage in these conversations with colleagues, we give ourselves both space and structure to communicate our thinking and learning to a valued listener. And as educators, we know that this is an important part of the learning process.
We know that, in these times, it remains important to pause and invite students to communicate their learning – even if for very short moments of time. Why might that be?
When students communicate their learning to others, they are processing the learning that has occurred. They’re engaging in conversation and making personal meaning. As they make that personal meaning, they’re telling the story of themselves as learners and that is a very powerful way to build competence and capacity. They talk about the evidence of their growth – whether they’re at grade level, beyond grade level, or not yet at grade level. Students who articulate what they have learned come to better understand how much has been learned; they are also much better prepared for their next learning steps.
In most jurisdictional curriculum and standards documents, communication is a foundational competency. It can be described as a bridge between students’ learning and their identity as learners. Having an audience and identifying a purpose are requirements for authentic communication; when students talk about their learning to others, these requirements are met. Students who share what it is they were to learn and provide evidence of that learning are imparting their ideas, experiences, and understanding to the world around them – their valued peers, teachers, parents, guardians, and other adults of significance to them.
However, we can’t simply expect that all students can automatically communicate their learning to others. It doesn’t work that way. That is why, we consider the 7 actions of assessment for learning, students communicating their learning to others is the seventh action.
When students are involved in instruction and assessment that has them:
- understanding the learning destination,
- using samples to understand quality and development,
- participating in the co-construction of criteria,
- being involved in feedback cycles to feed the learning forward, including self- and peer assessment,
- collecting evidence to prove that they have learned,
- setting goals for their next steps,
then they can:
- communicate their learning to others, both formally and informally.
It is the work in the six preceding actions that gives learners the tools and language needed to clearly and confidently talk about their learning.
So, whether the conversation happens in a Google Meet or as a student shares one piece of learning evidence with a significant adult or in a virtual breakout room with a small group of classmates, communicating learning to others is not an ‘add-on’ or something extra – it is an integral, necessary, and important part of the learning.