Communicating Personalized Learning Goals to Parents
If one of the most underutilized resources in schools in terms of developing new initiatives are the students themselves, then our parents can’t be far behind in terms of creating strong partnerships for increased student learning. Parents possess a wealth of professional knowledge, life experience, and should be viewed and treated as experts when it comes to their children. You shouldn’t just communicate at the end of a grading period or when disciplinary considerations are involved. You should also openly and frequently communicate students’ personalized learning goals to their parents. Here are some big-picture and more granular ways to do that.
Personalized Learning Partnerships: More Than Just Kleenex
A teacher recently disagreed with one of my rating areas during a formal evaluation cycle. The verbiage of the current Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) rubric indicates, in pertinent part, that “The teacher engages in two-way, ongoing communication with families that results in active volunteer, community, and family partnerships which contribute to student learning and development.” The teacher, one of our best, asserted to me that she met this standard in part because she “receives donations all the time” from parents. While laudable, I encouraged her to think beyond what parents give to us to what we should be sharing with them and inviting them to do in our classrooms in the spirit of an equal relationship.
Start with the mindset that a true partnership with parents means allowing them access to the classroom in more ways than the stereotypical tissue box donation or even the occasional guest speaking opportunity. True partnership means total transparency, from curriculum maps and learning objectives/goals to assessment rubrics and instructional materials. Share it all and you will be surprised and energized by the response from parents.
Beyond guest speakers, do parents visit your classroom regularly to help run learning centers? Serve as providers of community feedback on student projects? Participate in science labs alongside student learners? These are just a few ways you can move beyond donations to a real relationship, creating the space you will need to communicate personalized student learning goals to a family that is working with you in more meaningful ways.
Build a Shared Understanding of Personalized Learning In Your School/District
Before you can effectively communicate personalized learning goals to parent(s)/guardian(s), you must first build the capacity to have those conversations. That means doing the hard work of developing a shared community understanding of what personalized learning is and how it will manifest itself in your school and/or district as a whole.
One school district began this process with “internal communications,” connecting personalized learning to the mission and vision of the district. Thus solidified, the district conducted community meetings and reached out to community organizations to bring all external stakeholders on board. Only then did the district implement personalized learning for students as a K-12 initiative.
Internally, do all staff possess a good working definition of what personalized learning is? What its aims and objectives are for learners? How it fits (or doesn’t fit) within the district’s overall strategic plan? Until your staff understands and can verbalize the philosophy behind the initiative, it will be a struggle to get buy-in and move forward.
Externally, has the community had a chance to tell the district what it collectively values? What personalized learning would mean to them if they could re-enter the world of school? How they envision student choice and voice to play out in today’s educational setting? Until the community has had a chance to share their feedback and/or participate in a tabletop planning session or two, a true partnership will not exist.
Last, but certainly not least, what about student input? What does personalized learning mean to them? Will you provide the opportunity for students to explain their personalized learning goals to parents in their own words and with parent input?
The Classroom Is The Room Where It Happens
The smash hit musical Hamilton has an entire generation wanting to be in “the room where it happens” - in other words, present when the critical decisions are made. When you begin with a mindset that parents belong in that room, you invite them into the life of your classroom and the personalization of learning goals for their children.
At the beginning of the year, share not only the class syllabus with your parents but consider sharing a brief version of the course curriculum map, as well. Ask parents about their child’s interests, both as they relate to your class and otherwise. Ask what they think their child might like to learn or investigate as the year progresses. Be clear that parent interest, input, and volunteer participation is not only welcomed but encouraged. This is especially important in middle school and high school classrooms because full parent partnerships seem to decrease in frequency as students get older.
Next, work with your students to set their own personalized learning goals, both in the short term - an aspect of the next lesson or unit, for example - and over the course of the school year. Work in a discussion of what their parents shared with you and ask them to reflect on how they might construct meaningful personalized learning goals. As you prepare to share all of these things out, remember that you already have the means to do so via one very powerful 21st century tool: your classroom learning management system.
Personalized Learning Goals and Your Learning Management System (LMS)
If you are a parent, you may have been on the receiving end of a classroom e-mail blast or two (or a million). Even if they contain important information, they are rarely personalized. Your learning management system can do so much more to create a more personalized learning environment because you can curate and share content specific to the needs of each student in an interactive, family-friendly manner.
One Education Elements blog post demonstrated how self-reflection and goal setting might play out in the early elementary grades, complete with example videos and pictures of classroom goal setting. You can easily have a student record a lesson reflection to be shared with the parent via the classroom learning management system. Each unit could be accompanied by a photo or screenshot of the student’s personalized learning goals, also delivered and stored via the class LMS. This approach not only “pushes” information out to the parent(s), but invites them to be a part of your classroom, accompanying their child on a self-selected journey of discovery.
With the above big-picture groundwork in place and your commitment to using your LMS to practice two-way personalized learning communication on a regular basis, you can make a personalized learning environment a reality for every learner and their families.
Personalized Learning is a Collaborative Endeavor
Educational technology has made personalized learning more attainable than ever before. But just because personalized learning centers on the individual student’s choice, voice, interests, and personal goals, it doesn’t mean that those facets exist in isolation. Communication with parents regarding personalized learning goals should be two-way, and it is easier than ever before to accomplish this.
Do you have any tips for communicating personalized learning goals to parents? Tell us on Twitter @Schoology