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Low motivation for writing: a primary school team transforms its entire approach

Annie Guay, teacher and pedagogical leader at L'Accueil de Scott, continues her reflection on the keys to success when a school team decides to change its approaches in order to give more value to student learning.
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By Annie Guay, Grade 1 and 2 teacher and educational leader at L'Accueil à Scott school, Beauce-Etchemin School Service Center.

Holiday vacations are already a thing of the past; we have all returned to class and are preparing to hand in the first report card of this school year. Our practices are constantly changing these days. Never mind, we will still be able to complete our “famous” bulletins for the month of February as honestly as possible!

Our goal remains the same: to give value to the learning of our students.

If you missed the interview with Philippe Longchamps As part of the “Class Trip” webcast, I strongly suggest you listen to it. His interview with the host Pierre Gagnon sounded so right about the collaboration that we must develop in our students and, above all, the pleasure that we ourselves can have in learning as an adult and eternal learner.

In this sense, the evaluation of learning must evolve. This is what has motivated us for 3 years at l'Accueil school, where I teach in the Beauce-Etchemin school service center. We undertook careful thought on the development of skills (and therefore their evaluation) and we learned a lot together as a school team.

The trigger for us was the low motivation of our students to develop their writing skills. 

What were we trying to do? How were we going to do it? From this vulnerability, we wanted to bring out ideas to spark engagement and foster collaboration among students… And you know what? While we thought we were changing the students, it was rather us, the teachers, who first changed...  

A pedagogical leader saw her team questioning itself; she freed up time for us to meet, talk and question each other. We found ourselves at 3, then at 6, then at 10… We made several detours, some preferred to wait to see where it would take us… and I thank them today. They were not convinced that a change was necessary and had to take a distance before launching.

Now we are all there! Through courageous discussions, respectful exchanges and judicious advice offered by educational advisers on the lookout for research and best practices to put in place, we have shaped new ways of doing things together.

Cultivate collaboration

Embarking on a project aimed at reviewing ways of evaluating or developing new learning sequences is not to be taken lightly. Don't try to back out of some more engaging conversations and don't downplay the importance of the necessary collaboration. These elements are essential to obtain real results.

Harmonizing one's practices, discussing one's ways of doing things, questioning and questioning things (and not individuals), requires a certain level of trust that is built together. If only one teacher does it, that's good, but it's unlikely that the effect will be lasting on student learning. However, when a whole team decides to work together (remedial teacher, management, teachers and other specialists) and agrees to trust each other, things can really change… for the better.

This collaboration, the fact of working together to better support our students, stimulates us enormously pedagogically speaking. We have set up, as a team, a culture of collaboration that builds on everyone's strengths and where everyone has their voice. Today, we see the gains in our students' learning.

We have become coaches to our students, much more often than judges (or evaluators) and this creates a very different dynamic when it comes to learning.

A complete learning sequence

In the end, we built our learning sequences in writing from kindergarten to 6th grade. Are they perfect? Not at all! Do they bear witness to our approach and our successes? Absoutely! We are also working this year on our reading sequences and our discussions are heated, but oh so educational!

And the evaluation of learning in all this? Regardless of the mode of teaching (online or in class), we must not stray from the educational intentions that we have set ourselves and that we have made visible to our students. Developing a skill means being able to define it and name its manifestations. It's not an accumulation of notes...  

What will we tackle next? Oral communication? Mathematics? I don't know yet, but I know that we will make the choices together. 

Whether you are in the Outaouais, Gaspésie or anywhere in Quebec, know that our school is ready to open its doors to you on its pedagogical and collaborative practices. Let's dare to ask questions, exchange by video and share our ways of doing things for the success of each student.

In addition : a dossier on collaboration, from the Information Network for Educational Success 

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