This year, I tried something different than usual. I always like to get input from parents about their children, but I often ask for this input after the school year begins. For a change, I decided to email parents a link to the Google form below to receive input prior to the start of school.
I’m thrilled with the number of people that have already responded, and I hope to get more responses before September. Just looking at the answers, it’s clear that the parents and the students sat down together to complete this form, and I love the conversations that its sparked.
While the majority of answers were ones that I expected — as I taught many of these students before, some for as many as three years already — there was one answer that surprised me. For my question that said, “How does your child learn best?,” almost everyone replied, “Full class lecture and follow-up activity.”
At every inservice that I attended last year, every team meeting, and every staff meeting, the focus was always on the importance of “small group instruction” and “inquiry.” Our new Social Studies document actually emphasizes the importance of inquiry. Numerous parents and students though do not see this as the most effective method for learning. Why is this the case? Should this be something that we look at changing? How?
I would guess that for many students this is a new way of learning. I know that last year, most of my class was initially unaccustomed to directing their own learning. They felt more comfortable opening up a textbook, copying a note from the board, and seeing a checkmark with the one right answer. It took some students a while to see the benefits of inquiry, collaboration, and small group instruction, but at the end of the year, when they were asked to reflect on their learning, I received written pieces like this one:
I think that this speaks to the importance of exploring these other ways of learning, even if they are not initially the favoured ones by students. What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this as I plan ahead for September!
Aviva, love your idea of starting to send the surveys BEFORE the school year starts. What a nice way to welcome families! I experienced a bit of the same thing when I sent out my year end surveys at the end of the school year last year. Some parents said they were dissappointed with the fact their children didn’t bring something home everyday, that they didn’t have any homework, and they had a difficult time understanding the “why” of the activities and explorations their children engaged in throughout the year. I think it just comes down to time – parents need more time to see that learning is changing. Communication is also essential. Also, I feel people reflect lots of how they learned when they went to school. In kindergarten, this sparks up many conversations as to why we don’t do a Teddy Bear’s picnic, why there are no monthly themes, and why there isn’t a kindergarten graduation. Again, this all comes from my experience in K where lots of students are still exploring different ways of learning as opposed to older students who might have already found their preferred way of learning. Just my thoughts! 🙂
Thanks for your comment, Kathleen! I’m glad you liked my idea for this year. I’d definitely do this again. 🙂
While last year, I initially found that some parents and students were unsure about some of my instructional choices, but regular phone calls and emails with all parents really helped. I think that we need good dialogue about these kinds of issues. When the end of the year came, all students loved different approaches and hoped they would continue for next year. Change is hard and takes time, I guess. I think students become accustomed to how they’ve been taught. I know my approach is often different than some, but I think that’s okay. And if some students need more scaffolding than others, I think that’s okay too because we’re not all the same.
Maybe what I need to do is to ask this same question to all of my students and parents at the END of the year. I wonder how the answers would compare.