During your end-of-year conferences, provide meaningful feedback for students that they can actually comprehend and improve upon in the upcoming year.
As we come to the end of the year, we are all thinking about the feedback we need to provide students before they leave our classrooms for good. They have completed all of their assessments which are important, of course – after all, we need to see how far our students have come throughout the school year.
How much do the students truly care about these assessments?
Oftentimes, students take their final tests and walk out of the classroom, and don’t think about school material again until the fall.
So, does it make sense to simply provide a handout of results for each student or should we do more? How can we provide students with feedback that they can actually use?
A Pinnacle Moment of Realization…
At one of my previous schools, we had a 25-minutes block of time set aside each day dedicated to an array of needs. This time was used for enrichment activities for the gifted students, extra work time for resource students, current events, free reading, etc.
On Wednesdays, we would specifically focus on academic improvement and focused much of our efforts on showing students their own data as well as explaining how we as a school and as teachers used that data. The goal was to educate the students on the many assessments we take so that they would be more invested in the process.
My first experience with this academic improvement Wednesday was an eye-opening experience for both the kids and me. This particular Wednesday, I printed out individual MAP test scores (Measure of Academic Progress) and handed them to each individual. I showed them the scores they received but was surprised when many of them had no idea what their scores meant.
“I got a 127…what does that mean?”
“Is this good or bad?”
“My score went down one point…is that okay?”
So, I pulled up the normative data chart and told them to reference the chart to see where they fell based on percentile.
My students were actually very interested in this process. Many asked questions and the ones that didn’t were still listening intently. They asked questions such as:
How do teachers use our scores?
How can I improve my score?
What happens if this score is lower than my previous scores?
How do you know if I even tried on the test?
What if I was gone?
ALL GOOD QUESTIONS!
Now, answering those questions took a lot longer than I anticipated; I even had to postpone some of the questions for another day.
But the point is…
For a moment, my students were engaged in their own learning. They CARED about their scores and they CARED about what those scores meant. I know that deep down they all had a desire to do better the next time around and I made it my goal to help them do so.
So, what does this mean for the end-of-year conferences?
If you decide to talk strictly about academics during your end-of-year conferences, be sure to take the time to EXPLAIN the data presented.
A lot of students will not understand the report you put in front of them unless you EXPLAIN what exactly it is that is being assessed.
We know that these assessment scores don’t DEFINE our students, but they do give them good information about where they are at and where they need to go on an academic level.
So, provide students with the data and have a discussion. Educate them on what that data means and how they can improve on that data in the following year.
Individually, each student can create one or two SPECIFIC goals to work on come fall. Then, maybe…just maybe, they will start the next school year with those goals in the back of their minds.
If you want to focus more on behavior or 21st-century goals, I implore you to provide each student with a little bit of data to work within those areas as well. You could write up a quick synopsis of their behavior and ask them what they can improve upon. Maybe you could hand them the 21st-century standards for their grade level and ask them to self-assess where they are and make goals to get them closer to where they should be.
Students have their goals…now what?
If time, I like to share small growth mindset cards with my students.
These are growth mindset posters I like to create at the beginning of the year, but I have also printed them as little cards to hand to each student at the end of each year. I encourage them to take their cards home and put them on their bathroom mirrors to reflect on before they leave the house each day.
Additionally, after students write down their one or two goals for the next year, I like to teach growth mindset skills. These are skills that schools LOVE to teach at the beginning of the year, but I have found them to be just as valuable towards the end of the school year to help students stay focused on their goals throughout the summer. To learn more about fostering the growth mindset in your students, check out this blog post.
With all of this being said…
It may seem like a lot of work. It may seem like you have to find specific data to have prepared for each student. In my experience, this is not as hard as it sounds…most testing platforms have individual reports ready to be printed to use rather easily during my end-of-year conferences.
If you don’t yet have access to testing data, you could use a general student self-assessment and ask students to base their goals on their weaknesses. There are many options for student self-assessments online.
Another option may be for each student to take a personality test like the 16 Personalities test or the High 5 test. These allow students to understand some of the strengths embedded in their personalities but may also provide them with weaknesses that they could base their goals on as well.
Whichever route you choose, I think your students will find this process very interesting and very enticing. It will give them something more specific to reflect on during the summer and focus on in the fall when school resumes.