Posted on November 11, 2013
A full week of learning for parents and teachers! At the all-school professional development meeting this past Wednesday, six faculty from elementary through high school shared assessment practices for learning, that is, formative assessment intended to guide their studentsʻ learning. From vlogging to re-telling summaries to developing questions worthy of extended research, the assessment strategies were clearly focused on a process of ensuring that students really connect to and learn concepts more than discrete information. What impressed me the most was each teacherʻs admission that far from being assessment experts, they were willing to attempt different ways of determining their studentsʻ understanding of course material. Faculty learned about the performance continua that the elementary teachers developed several years ago (and which undergo periodic revision so that the continua do a better job of describing what students can do and are expected to achieve), while the elementary faculty learned about the challenges of student evaluation at other grade levels. Throughout this academic year, the entire K-12 faculty will be discussing how we can improve our practices of assessing for learning, which has a direct impact on shaping student learning. (At the podium is fifth grade teacher Pam Jenkins.)
On Thursday evening, preschool parents met with Dr. George Forman, PhD, consultant to our preschool faculty. He has been co-editor with Lella Gandini, PhD, and Carolyn Edwards, PhD, of all three editions of the Hundred Languages of Children. He worked as a researcher in the early learning centers of Reggio Emilia for several years and is professor emeritus of education at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst specializing in the work of Jean Piaget. He explained to our parents the research perspectives from which our preschool faculty operate and develop multi-layered learning experiences for our youngest students. Using video clips he had taken during his two-day consultation with the teachers, Dr. Forman elaborated on the value of the "daily plans" that the 3- and 4-year-olds are writing (drawing). Their symbolic drawings, which are assessed with the teacher for readability, are excellent examples of appropriate early literacy that are meaningful for the children.
Dr. Forman was also the featured presenter in an all-day workshop at UH West O`ahu on Saturday, in conjunction with the Wonder of Learning exhibit. Workshop participants were from several public and private schools and organizations. His keynote focused on understanding how very young children behave and seem to think like scientists, testing phenomena in their environment over and over again. The Reggio Approach provides a "disciplined inquiry" for early learners to observe, predict, and predict again what might happen in all the ordinary moments of their learning. We visited the exhibit twice with specific tasks, first to analyze what makes the Reggio Approach unique, and second, to examine the childrenʻs words as windows into their understanding. Preschool faculty Robynne Migita, Leslie Gleim, and Jordan Guillory were also asked to explain their current project work. All participants deemed their participation in the workshop as transformative -- observing (assessing) early learners goes well beyond the ordinary into seeing and valuing the extraordinary nature of their learning.
I had the opportunity on Friday evening to take in our School of the Arts Fall Dance Concert. Oh my goodness! What talent! Our students performed as one might expect of dance professionals! But the real joy was seeing the number of performers who were former elementary students -- Anela Napoleon, Dominic Mills-Patrick, Malia Strohlin, Koutney Yadao, Sophie Collis, Caitlin Tanji, Zoe Kane, Jessica Rosenberry, Jade Rosso, Kawika Kamakea, Skye Constable, Madison Eagar, Madi Collier, Sean Hochman, Ke`ala OʻConnell, Brennen Aotaki, Gabby Gudoy, Kaity Rosenberry, Kacey Kwock, Emma Krening, and Cameron Hirose. Talk about a transformative experience! Kudos to the MPSA dance faculty for their stellar teaching. (Pictured here is Brennen and his proud mother.)
One final thought: Today is Veteransʻ Day, also Remembrance Day in other areas. On this day, we remember with deep gratitude the men and women whose past and present service to our country enables us to live as citizens with many freedoms we often take for granted. Thank you.
For our children,
Edna L. Hussey