Conferences & Performance-Based Assessment
Since the beginning of the year, I have been holding individual conferences with the students. It started out because Pat had written the names of students who had not completed their homework up on the board for each of her projects.
I selected students who had multiple assignments overdue and asked them to chat with me briefly outside. I took the opportunity to chat with the students about their home life, their sleep and their homework strategies. Why were they having trouble submitting their homework?
I found this a very rewarding way to get to know the students a little more, and it seems to be having an unintended positive effect in the classroom. I believe it is helping to cement a connection with the students.
I also used the time to practice Performance-Based Assessments, which we were learning about from Leyton and Bel in our Friday sessions (for LLED 350, basically). I try to do a few students each week. I ask the students to read out loud to get a sense of their reading ability, their language, and their overall comprehension.
While it doesn’t follow the format of an official PBA because I am not scoring their reading sheet, it has been very illuminating. It gives me a lot of insight into why they might be struggling in their schoolwork.
And then THIS happened…
So after a few weeks of having these student conferences, word got around in the classroom that I was ‘assessing’ their reading. Students started asking me when it was going to be their turn. One day I pulled out a shy girl and after doing some reading, I noticed her lip start to quiver. After she finished the short passage, I was asking her about the words she had had trouble reading, and she burst into tears.
I was quite shocked, and didn’t know what to do. We chatted about why she was crying, and it turned out she thought this was some big assessment and that she had failed. Unfortunately, even after I explained to her that it was not that type of assessment, she did not stop crying.
Needless to say, this wasn’t a pleasant experience for either of us. I have not done any more reading assessments since then because I worried did something wrong, and I’m not sure what. I spoke to my SA about it, and she was not worried, but I don’t feel comfortable continuing on with them.
I think that writing about this has helped, and perhaps the next step would be to offer students the opportunity to have a conference with me, instead of requiring or expecting them to. Perhaps by having this autonomy, they will feel more empowered.
The entire experience goes to show that students are incredibly sensitive around assessment and I guess if I can spin this positively, then I can say that I have learned this valuable lesson.