Philadelphia humanities teacher Joshua Block, reflects on a common struggle that many educators may experience at the end of a literacy performance task. “Much of what students produced felt on the verge but hadn’t yet come to fruition…Sadly, my grading and realizations about what would help students usually occurred at an endpoint when they had no more attention or patience for work they had completed. The written comments that I offered them were skimmed, if read at all.”
In his most recent blog post Conversing, Consulting and Creating, Block speaks to the power of using small conversations with students. This seemingly simple strategy is an example of one that can have a profound impact on personalizing student learning. Another version of this strategy from Facing History and Ourselves is Cafe Conversations , a strategy to help students develop an awareness of different perspectives by requiring students to represent a particular point of view.
Block writes that teaching is an “enormous interpersonal challenge” where students may not view learning as collaborative, and may not feel “valued as individuals, as thinkers, and as creators.” Small conversations with peers and teacher as mentor, shifts the role of teacher from director to consultant. “By leaving the front of the room, checking in, conversing, and consulting with students, teachers shift the paradigm of what it means to learn.”
As Vermont students move to Proficiency-Based Learning, and the flexible and personalized pathway set forth in Act 77, it will be critical that students be given many opportunities to learn to reflect in speaking and writing on their own learning. Small Conversations is one strategy toward that end.
As Block reflects, “I’m there, waiting in many different places along the way, offering support, critique, and guidance. The learning is designed as a way of challenging students to examine new ideas, and ideally it results in students producing work.