Transparency

With thanks to the media frenzy following wikileaks in the past few months it is difficult to escape the word transparency. I noticed through Twitter there were many articles about how you should be transparent in your business and after reading a few of these it got me thinking about how transparent we are in education.

Of course, with the sensitive nature of our ‘business’ we need to keep some information to ourselves.  But when I examined how much information I keep to myself (not deliberately, but I had just never thought about sharing it) and how this information could actually help learning in our classroom, I decided I needed to make a few changes this year.

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photos8.com: Soap bubble in air

Assessment: Yes I have always shared results to any assessment with the students but I have been remiss in explaining why I did it and what I learnt from their assessment.  So this week when I sat down to do running records with students, I explained exactly why I was doing it, what I hoped to find out and how this would help them.  I plan to have  a one on one interview with students when all of the assessment is completed and share what I found out,  what I am going to do with the information and to set goals in partnership with the students.

VELS: I use this to guide my teaching and I realised students and parents have limited understanding of it.  We use it to set goals but do my kids really understand what an interpersonal goal is?  This week I shared VELS with them.  We looked at the orgin of the strand names and likened these to umbrellas.  The kids then pasted the domains under each umbrella and made suggestions of what we learn in each of these areas.  It was interesting to see that students had a great understanding of PE, English and Mathematics but didn’t realise that our personal learning and how we manage our learning was essential also.  I knew that this was a great lesson for the kids when the very next day one student asked, ‘How does this fit into VELS?’

Parents: I know that I work in partenrship with parents but rarely get the opportunity to ask them about their child.  At the beginning of this year I have sent home a ‘Getting to know your child‘ form asking questions about the parents feelings on their child. (What personalities they have, what do they feel are their child’s strengths, improvements they would like to see, etc)

I am also going to use email as a form of keeping my parents ‘in the loop’ this year.  I find it is a great way to send a quick message to parents or to share a great piece of learning their child has done.  This will be complimented by a fortnightly newsletter to be emailed and sent home with a glossary of the terms we are using, what we have been learning and a list of questions they could ask their children.

Scrutiny: Although I find I am a good reflector in the classroom, I rarely ask the students for authentic feedback on me.  So already this year I have been asking the students questions like; What did I do to help you learn today? Which lesson did you understand better, yesterday’s or todays?  What made it easier to understand?  I hope that throughout the year students can be honest with me and offer feedback to help them learn better.

What does transparency look like in your classroom?

How do you communicate with parents?

Please leave a comment and share your views on transparency.

8 thoughts on “Transparency”

  1. Hi Mel,

    It’s a fine line between what we share and what we don’t at times, isn’t it ?

    I made the decision also to be more transparent with aspects of my work with my students last year. I used to sit with my students and share their assessment results with them also. Our school had collected assessment data over time (particularly on-demand testing data) which I graphed and showed the students. The visual representation of how much they improved (or in some cases) went backwards was really motivating. Hope it continues to work for you throughout the year.

    Your post though got me thinking thought in the broader sense of transparency; particularly in relation to what I choose to blog about and what I think should remain private, particularly when it comes to reflecting on the activities that occur at school. Someone in my PLN on Twitter shared an article of a teacher in the US who was suspeded after posts and comments she had made on her blog. Another example was when people’s tweets and posts from the Ultranet August 9th Statewide PD Day made page 3 of the state papers. On one had we want to record our experiences for later reflection or to seek the advice of others, but on the flipside, once it’s out there in the public forum, it’s there for all to see and be judged.

    Some food for thought…..

    1. @Scott

      It certainly is a fine line. It was interesting that you brought up the issue of the US teacher who shared views and has now put her job in jeopardy. I only read about it yesterday and found it very interesting. I know I often speak in my classroom about our online reputation and how fragile it is. I guess for many of us this is unknown territory. As technology and web 2.0 is quite new to us we are learning about the boundaries that we need to put in place and the potential for all to be seen and judged. To add to that sometimes our words can be confused easily, meaning we have to be extra careful.

      Thanks for bringing up the broader context of transparency. Definitely some food for thought.

      Mel

  2. Hi Mel,
    This is a thoughtful post that shows you are a reflective and caring professional. It can be quite confronting for some teachers to get feedback from students on their own performance, but it is a powerful tool to improve teaching. It could also be considered quite provocative to suggest that teachers are not transparent in their roles, however it is very true that we don’t always explain specifically to students the purpose of each task or assessment item.
    I have gained valuable feedback from parents at the beginning of each year that has helped me to understand their children as well as from the students themselves. Principles of learning and teaching surveys were also effective tools to gain feedback on my teaching that helped me to provide more authentic and engaging learning activities.
    You have provided some good food for thought here Mel, and I for one am encouraged to continue to make learning a partnership between student, parent and teacher.

    1. @Britt

      I agree that it can be quite confronting to get feedback from students and I wonder how students feel when they receive feedback from us. I know I could probably learn something from the way they handle my feedback! I feel that I have, in the past got so carried away with why and what I am teaching that I have not focused on being explicit to students my reasoning. I am currently trying to get in the habit of starting the lesson with a short discussion explaining this and more so trying to have the kids ask me to justify my reasons when they are not sure – just as I would ask them!

      Thanks for your comment
      Mel

  3. Thanks for this post Mel. I love the way you share what you’re doing with your students. Explaining VELS to your students is really clever. They will have a clear understanding of what you expect of them and how all the pieces of their learning fit together. You really are partners in the learning!

    1. @Wendy

      Thanks for leaving a comment and for the RT on twitter! I am so glad I spent the time to go through VELS with the students and I can already see the benefits in my classroom. Students can see more sense in what we are doing and seem to be learning with a new vigor.

      Today we had an interesting discussions of the pros and cons of worksheets and it was great to hear the kids justify why they didn’t like to do worksheets! (Interestingly enough this came out of a chat I started on why the kids preferred to do number investigations in maths)

      I am certainly looking forward to more great conversations with the kids this year.

      Mel

  4. I like the questions regarding what you learned…it gives the kids a chance to participate in the learning process and comment on the teaching perspective. By allowing them to participate in the method of teaching it will assit them in their learing methods…auditory, visual, sensory.

    1. Hi Anne,

      Thanks for your comment. I like the idea that by letting children participate in the method of teaching it assists them in their learning methods. I believe that questioning is a very important part of learning and that reflecting on what we are learning is a very powerful tool.

      Mel

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