Sunday, October 27, 2013

How About Teaching Our Families to Have Regular Parent/Child Conferences?

I just read a post by Dean Shareski and as I was commenting I had an epiphany of sorts. The hard facts about assessment isn't necessarily giving good ones or even getting good feedback from them. The hard part is sharing what we learn to a third party, think parents or admin. At some point it quits being a first person account and becomes a first person guesstimate.

We don't have ways to adequately find out what our students have learned. Students only allow us to know what they want us to know, even when it comes to what they have learned. An assessment won't show everything even with a cooperative student. The best way to 'assess' what a student has learned is to have a conversation with them.

Last week my school held the annual parent/teacher conferences. The junior high had students lead the conference, basically we facilitated a conversation between the student and their parent. The kind of conversation that should probably be happening regularly at home.

Why don't schools regularly encourage, model, bribe, or otherwise get parents and students to sit down and have these assessment conversations?


  1. I think many parents do have informal conversations with their children about school and learning. What would an "assessment conversation" look like? Would a list of questions or discussion points need to be created? How would this be presented to parents? Could a teacher personalize it for each family somehow? Something like this may need to be given as a suggestion though, as opposed to a 'must do'. I might be difficult to find the appropriate role for parents in this. My first thoughts/questions... but I like the idea of conversation starters.

  2. You pose an interesting question Mr. Chamberlain. Assessments and grade only go so far when dealing with how much students learn. After all students DO posses the power to answer a question incorrectly even though they know the correct one. However I am not saying this is every case, I am just point out a fallacy within assessment and grading. My EDM 310 teacher always talks about wanting to do away with grades and instead observe your skills and you must prove that you understand by your actions and you must exhibit advancing behavior in that subject you are currently enrolled in.

    Therefore I think this is GREAT idea. With this there is less performing under pressure; students are able to relax and talk about what they have learned. Although with parents and teachers there it may be a tad stressful, but taking into account that these types of meetings happen everyday, then the children would become more accustomed.

    Very interesting concept. When it comes to the question you asked I think school CAN have these types of meetings on a regular basis and that the teachers just need to get permission from the principal or superintendent

  3. I came across this blog via #ptchat. I am an educator and parent currently working on two projects with the goal you mentioned above. One is currently in use by school districts and cities called ReadyRosie and we are currently in production for the elementary project called We film these parent/child conversations with real families and make them available for districts or organizations to distribute to families via emails. Most of our conversations are standards-based (literacy, math, or science) but we are also including more and more of these core conversations that you mention. Please check us out and send me your feedback at I would love to hear from you!

  4. Students only allow us to know what they want us to know, even when it comes to what they have learned.

    I wish more people would understand that. Individual learning is a black box of sorts. We can make educated and professional guesses but there will always be an element of mystery in the whole business.

    As you said, communication is our best tool.

    - @newfirewithin

  5. My name is Shakeya Andrews and I am a student in EDM 310 at the University of South Alabama. My blog can be found at Shakeya Andrews

    Hi Mr. Chamberlain! I found this blog to be very interesting. I also found the article you read to be interesting. It never crossed my mind that when we put our focus on achievement we can easily turn learning from something natural and enjoyable to something stressful and forced. I believe that it is very important to have assessment conversations with our students. When parents sit down and talk with their students about what they are doing in the classroom they can use the information they receive to help guide their child as a student. Also, research has proven that having daily conversations with students can enhance their vocabulary as well as reading skills.