Scanning has been integral in the formation of our learning community – we have been gathering information, listening to students, parents and staff, and asking the essential guiding questions since the beginning. Who are we? Who are our learners? Can we articulate what we are learning and what kind of learners we are? Are we able to name the next steps in our learning? Are we able to trust one another and work collaboratively to build a supportive community that in turn supports each student and believes in their success? Since the opening of Mar Jok Elementary, growth has been our priority and there is strong evidence of our students' growth in all areas of their learning.
Across our community initial scanning revealed, and continues now to reveal, a common commitment to inquiry as our way of being and learning together. Teacher responses led us to the questions led us to commit to move forward and take risks TOGETHER so that 'the work' of promoting and supporting our own growth paralleled the growth and learning of our students.
Scanning our parent community at PAC meetings as part of our 'Learning about Learning' portion of each meeting revealed how much parents want to know about what is being learned and HOW it is that their children are learning.
Scanning our students as part of each Student Advisory Meeting (SAM) revealed the ownership and empowerment students feel when they present their own learning. It became clear that they were not consistently able to present the next steps in that learning which focused our work on assessment FOR learning so that teachers, parents and students are able to look to the next steps based on feedback and clear learning destinations.
Subsequent scanning in SAM meetings has revealed students' increasing ownership of their learning and to a student they understand the importance of knowing the next steps in that learning and are able to articulate and present those steps. This filtered through our Learning in Depth Inquiry work as well. Students stated that they needed to learn how to determine the direction of that inquiry process and content.
Our FOCUS emerged through learning and inquiry, mostly through our Learning in Depth work. It emerged through learning that in order to put students at the heart of their own learning teachers had to learn to 'let go' and share the responsibility for learning, for assessing and for the direction the learning could take. Teachers developing and assessing their own skills AS they invited both parents and students into the heart of teaching and learning was a huge risk.
We began communicating student learning using digital portfolios as an inquiry in our first year at Mar Jok. By June 2015 we had decided together that each teacher would commit to developing student portfolios beginning in September 2015. The power in focusing our goal and learning was unprecedented, and set the stage for all of our subsequent work.
As we delved into what it meant to use portfolios several realities developed. Teachers, particularly in the primary grades, were owning and creating the portfolios. Secondly, the work in actually learning the technology and consistently achieving success with it required enormous time, commitment, equipment and technical expertise.
As teacher learning and confidence progress we were able to focus on the quality of the porfolios themselves. The challenge became how to capture the depth, breadth and unique learning of each child using this technology. It was clear that this also aligned with other data pointing us to improve instruction by improving assessment and inviting students into the heart of the learning. This meant much more than a 'digital scrapbook' of evidence of learning.
In 2018, staff began to focus on growth portfolios where students communicate their learning through the context of, "I used to... Now I...".
System wide work on Assessment for Learning is our FOCUS.
Ensure strong student achievement and deep learning at all levels of our learning community through a system wide application and understanding of the principles of assessment for learning.
Developing a Hunch
Our 'hunch' about the way learning occurs was valuable learning as teachers asked 'How did we contribute to our students becoming dependent learners?' We held serious professional conversations, developed collaborative norms for those conversations, and worked in trust to understand what needed to change in our individual and common practices for students to truly take their place at the heart of the learning process. The parallel processes of collaborative inquiry teams of teachers working to enrich and embed inquiry process in student learning revealed how it is only in taking the risk to look at our own instruction that teacher and student learning will improve. The trust required to continue this level of learning conversation continues to grow, thereby promoting ongoing growth and challenge. These are deliberate, regular conversations and have become an integral part of our staff development work in Assessment for Learning.
Transforming our teaching by placing students at the heart of their own learning through assessment for learning is requiring teachers to commit to their own learning and by our whole learning community to ensure that translates into deeper learning for our students.
All grade level teacher teams have 40 minutes of collaborative learning time each week, in addition to their preparation time.
Each staff meeting is centred on AFL learning time, much of which is then processed and implemented during those weekly collaborative times. A schedule for the learning progression at staff meetings and collaborative times guides our work and ensures continuity. The amazing growth and innovation emerging has far surpassed our initial schedule and expectations – it has been like putting teachers at the heart of their own learning!!
We have sent teacher teams to Anne Davies and Sandra Herbst's Assessment Leadership Consortium during the summer in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Those teacher teams have, and will, lead our staff development work in Communicating Student Learning beginning again each fall term. In the fall of 2020, our entire teaching team participated in a day long Anne Davies and Sandra Herbst workshop which was tailored to our specific context and needs.
Mar Jok Elementary is committed to a common 4- point scale using the metaphor of the stages of a bridge construction. Students use the bridge to self-assess and it is used on term summaries embedded in the student digital portfolios. Students for whom 2020 is their 6th year at MJE, self-assessing is now second nature, as is communicating their learning journey using triangulated evidence on their digital portfolios.
In 2018 we refined and renewed how students can showcase, articulate and make their classroom and LiD learning visible. 3-Way conferences continue in February, half way through the school year, and include goal setting for the final term of the year.
Instructional strategies to support learning
Learning in Depth (K-5). Deep school-wide personalized inquiry by topic, learning across subject areas, learning about learning and the nature of knowledge
Daily Literacy and Math structures to support student choice, practice and differentiated instruction (Daily 5, Guided Reading, Café)
Technology in the service of student learning – ADST scope and sequence through coding and robotics developed to embed design thinking across grade levels.
Electronic Growth Portfolios documenting student learning – student selected evidence of learning shared digitally with parents as ongoing assessment and communicating of student learning. Parent education sessions provided to equip parents as partners in the assessment process
Structures to support learning
Weekly teacher collaborative time to support teacher learning teams working to improve instruction through assessment for learning
Monthly video evidence of MJE culture for viewing, reflection and archiving
PAC as partners in parent education, school planning, and assessment
'Learning Lab' for our district
Collaborative space to support student collaborative/innovative project work
Collaborative and integrated model of classroom support for each student
Winter and Spring musical theatre performances for our community
Building our library collection to 10 000 books, incorporating additional technology to support Virtual Field Trips and eBooks
Literacy and Numeracy intervention supported by adaptive technology
Learning Technology - we are equipped with iPads, ThinkPads, Chromebooks, 3D Printer, Virtual Field Trip system, Smartboards and Document Cameras in every classroom. These tools are thoughtfully used to enhance learning for each student.
Measuring our growth and development
Portfolio evidence of student learning and ongoing assessment for learning
Summaries of learning at the end of each term, standard based evaluation of learning using common 4 level performance scale school wide
Student –Parent-Teacher mid-year 3-way learning conferences:
- Evidence of Learning, Reflection, Goal Setting
- Student and parents involved in assessment for learning
School Wide Write three times a year as evidence of growth
Learning in Depth annual 'Showcase' event for our community
Early Learning Literacy and Numeracy Profiles to track skill development
PM Benchmarks K- 5 (2017 after Intermediate Collaborative Inquiry Project into Diagnostic Reading)
Whole Class Reading Assessments
Students' responses to our second set of scanning questions – which were direct and clear, including 'Can you name two adults in our building wo believe you will be successful in your learning?', continue to give us such valid, reliable and essential date as we understand the importance of belonging, connection and school culture for student learning. Our MDI conclude that students at MJE do feel safe and celebrate the learning environment including the building itself.