We need more acronyms in education don’t you think!?!?! IEP, CEA, PBL…the list goes on. Recently in British Columbia a new one has emerged, CSL: Communicating Student Learning. As a result of BC embracing a redesigned curriculum which is competency-driven it is necessary to change our ways of assessing and reporting on student learning. Now more than ever we need to communicate student learning in a way that is continuous rather than a series of separate events, that includes process and product, and provides students the opportunity to reflect. I am 100% in favour of this new direction but I have some wonders around the placement of the “C” and the “S” in this acronym.
The first time I heard about the notion of communicating student learning it sounded like a new a way of saying what we have always done around reporting…teachers communicating learning to parents. In my experience leading work with digital portfolio tools that is often what the tool is being used for, communicating to parents. Parents are getting pictures, videos, comments from teachers and other support staff and have a better picture of what is going on at school and how their child is progressing. So what issue do I have with this? Isn’t that the point?
Well, at many of our schools I feel we are looking for a silver bullet to engage our parent community. This is a noble cause although I am not sure this should be our main priority. For instance, I am aware of some secondary schools in our province where only a fraction of report cards are even picked up. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t try and engage/inform parents, it is to say that this is a secondary goal in my opinion. My wonder is if we can shift the acronym from being about educators sharing learning with parents, CSL, to an approach that is centred around students, SCL, Students Communicating Learning.
To reference Dr. John Hattie’s work “Self-Reported Grades”, essentially students reflecting on their learning, had one of the greatest effect sizes of any instructional practice we could change to improve student learning. This was significantly higher than Formative Assessment, Feedback, and Meta-Cognitive Strategies. Even Family Involvement was almost a third as important as student reflection. John Dewey once said “We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience,” this quote embodies the slight change in emphasis I am suggesting we make. Let’s move from CSL to SCL and put students at the centre.
Regardless of how our parent communities choose to engage in the various ways we communicate student learning with them it is imperative that students articulate where they are at in their learning journey and where they hope to go. SCL: Students Communicating Learning!