What if… students had job descriptions

At school we have been having discussions around assessment, reporting and in particular the design of our report card. We have started by dreaming and learning; dreaming “what if…” and learning about other models. Then the other day I listened to a podcast on coaching in the business world, the speaker said we have to separate performance appraisals from growth, development and learning goals. And as I thought about this I came back to the conversations I have been having about report cards and assessment and grading. Are we separating evaluations of performance from learning? Should we be? The business world and psychologists have been discussing motivation for decades now, maybe even longer, and the research findings are being shared. We are beginning to better understand what motivates employees to learn and achieve; how is this translating to the world of education and how we approach learning with our students?

My thoughts brought me back to what the podcast speaker said about separating performance appraisals from development, growth and learning goals. And I thought more about our report card and what we are assessing and evaluating. How do we separate performance appraisals from learning for our students? What is the performance we are appraising? In the business world the speaker, on the podcast, was talking about separating the job performance of the employee from their development and learning goals. The appraisal of job performance is based on a job description. And I wondered, should we have a job description for students? Is that is how we could evaluate their performance separately from their learning? Would we then be able to look at their accomplishments as learners and celebrate that growth separate from their responsibilities at school?

But what would a job performance look like for a student? I had a quick think about this and started a rough draft of some initial ideas.

Student Job Description

Summary

Students are citizens of today and our community who come to school to share their voice and create meaning with others through relationships and shared experiences. Each student carries their own potential that is revealed through interactions.

Responsibilities
  • Agentic designers of learning
  • Play
  • Identity (know yourself / be self-aware)
  • Expression
  • Risk-taking
Skills
  • Self-management/emotional intelligence
  • Self-directed (accountability/goal setting)
  • Communication
  • Learning to learn
  • Social/emotional
  • Creativity
  • Growth mindset
Preferred
  • Parents/families as partners
  • Passionate
  • Engaged
  • Curiosity/inquiry

As I was writing this I was reminded of Loris Malaguzzi’s Image of the Child. I wonder how our image of the child impacts the “job description” we expect of our learners? I am left with this thought swirling around (as I also continue to contemplate what our image of the human might be… but maybe that should be another blog).

So I come back to this question: if we could come up with a “job description” for the student how would we then evaluate their “performance” separately from growth, development and learning? And I am beginning to think, what if our reports to parents were a continuous dialogue on how we can partner together to support the “performance” of learners as students. Then what if learning, growth and development could be shared as stories authored and shared collaboratively by all partners in education?

What if…

What’s next?

What’s the point of reports?: Who writes them (who reads them)? Who are they for?

‘Tis the season…. for reporting….

I have a few questions that have been guiding my own reflections on reports: What’s the point of reports? Who writes them (who reads them)? Who are they for?

Roald Dahl’s school report from 1927, at the Roald Dahl Centre, Great Missenden. Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian

What’s the point of reports?

The IB states that written reports are “a summative record for students, parents and the school itself of a student’s progress.” A good friend and colleague described current reporting documents to me as a receipt of the learning for the parents; to show that services have been rendered and “paid in full.” And this is why so many schools continue with reports the way they are because we have not yet found a better way to share with our wider community the learning that has taken place over the year thus far. But what if there was another way? And why in the 21st century have we not yet found a better way… or have we?

In our early childhood classrooms our teachers have used their Personal Learning Journey time to embark on an expedition with their students exploring SeeSaw (student driven digital portfolios). Their success with this reflective communication and documentation tool has led other grade levels to follow in their steps. In Grade 5 the students have been designing their own digital portfolios using Google Sites. With these tools in place do we need reports any longer? Or can we rethink how we report?

Who writes them (who reads them)?

Traditionally reports have been written by teachers for parents. But if we go back to the first question, what’s the point of reports, and we revisit the idea of assessment then why is this information only written by teachers and only shared with parents? Where are the children in this dialogue? At what point do they get a voice to share their learning and growth? Can we use reports to provide more feedback for students and parents, to allow for more self-assessment and reflection? Can we involve the child in this process more effectively?

Who are they for?

As was stated in the first question reports are a summative record of progress for students, parents and the school. If reports are for students should then students be reading their own reports? Should they be involved in writing them? Should reports be written to inform the child about their own journey and where to go next? And if reports are for parents could they not also benefit from hearing the voice of the child? Could the child and teacher share the learning story, the growth and progress together? What about the school? How does the school use reports? Who reads them within the school and for what purpose? As we look forward can we consider how schools use collaboration between teachers, with students to more effectively share the whole story of the child?

There are some great ideas out there that we can build on to revolutionize the way we report, why we report and who is involved. I would love to hear more from you on how you are structuring your reports or moving in a new direction.