Updated: Jun 10, 2018
Parent: “Well, your teacher said you talk too much. What will you do about it?”
Child: “Er - I will talk less?”
Parent: “Yes you will! And you received a grade D in your last exam. How will you improve hmm?”
Child: “Er - I will revise more?”
Parents’ evenings are dead.
They have been for a long time. Queueing up to see your child’s teachers in order to receive a vague summary of how they have been ‘doing’ for the past academic year - all squeezed in to 5 minutes with a rushed ‘even better if’ as the next parent is hastily summoned over - leaves no parent inspired about the progress of their child’s learning.
Parents’ evenings are essential in allowing time for parents and teachers to communicate in order to support the progress of the child. But the challenge for schools is to make this communication meaningful.
Keeping the main thing about the main thing: Learning
Language is important. ‘I will revise more’ means nothing. ‘Your child got a grade D’ means nothing. In order to make Parents’ evening a productive part of a child’s learning journey, the conversations between the parent, teacher and student need to centre around the actual learning. This means instead of ‘I will revise more’, the discussions should centre around the key learning objective the student lacked in which resulted in a poor grade. The DPR makes this easy. With the 10 key learning objectives constantly updated, all stakeholders are able to see at a quick glance exactly which learning component has been ‘Secured’, ‘Consolidating’, 'Developing’ or ‘Emerging’, enabling laser sharp targets to be the focus of the discussion.
Flip the evening
And who best to lead this important discussion than the person whose learning it is all about?
Forest Gate Community School (FGCS) conducts ‘flipped’ Parents’ evenings. This means Parents’ evenings at the school are now student led rather than teacher led. In a similar concept to ‘flipped learning’, flipped Parents’ evening puts the onus on the students. Students at FGCS use their DPR to identify the key learning objectives they have not yet secured ahead of their Parents’ evening; they explore the steps they can take to secure these objectives and use the Parents’ evening to explore these ideas, allowing their teachers and parents to advise and facilitate the best routes and strategies going forward.
Students are no longer surprised by what their teachers might say about them; they pre-empt it in preparation for the evening.
Parents’ evenings before were a slightly dreaded evening of unknown revelations, vague promises to ‘improve’ and a murky understanding of just how this would be done. Now, Parents’ evenings are a tool used by students to facilitate their own learning action plans, utilising their most important support systems: their parents and teachers. Students leave feeling in control of their learning and parents leave feeling confident in how exactly to support their child.
Here’s a video of how it has worked at FGCS: