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A School Counselor uses AFL

One of the tricks of staff development is finding ways to apply ideas/strategies/concepts to the many different departments and content areas that make up a school. That's one of the goals of this Ning - to document ways to use AFL in many different settings. For example, there has been a PE example, a World Language example that could apply to any content course, a Social Studies rubric, an English rubric, a World Language example (really a vocab example), an example from a Marketing class, and a Math example. In addition there have many other examples that could apply to any class or that speak to the underlying philosophy of AFL.

However, there is one part of the typical school setting has not yet been addressed well by this site - the School Counselor. So let's address it....

Regina Meredith is a school counselor at Salem High School in Salem, VA. National Board Certified, innovative, hard-working, positive, and caring, Regina is everything a school could look for in a counselor. (Also, she's excellent with fluff!) But could she apply AFL to the position of school counselor? Yes...

Regina has developed an AFL Chart that she uses with certain students. One of the goals of AFL is to get students to use feedback/data to guide their own learning. Often a teacher might find this a difficult goal to reach with certain students. Certain students believe that their lack of progress is the teacher's fault or is an unavoidable reality over which they have no control. In a classroom full of students, this child is often a difficult one for the teacher to reach. This student probably needs some one-on-one attention. In steps the counselor...

This past year Regina had 3 students with whom she used the chart you see below. She regularly met with them on an individual basis and had them set goals and analyze their progress. She had them document their efforts to improve and seek out evidence of improvement. In doing so she at the least had the opportunity to plant important seeds for future growth. She got students to begin to realize the relationship between their effort and their progress. At best she was able to get students to truly take ownership of their progress.

So is this AFL? You bet it is. Students are analyzing their assessment data to guide their instruction. Would a classroom teacher be able to do this with a student? Definitely. However, for that harder to reach child, this is a great opportunity for the school counselor to step in and play a productive role in helping a student succeed.
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An AFL Email to Parents and Students

I recently received this email from one of my daughter's teachers. I thought it was worth sharing for a few reasons. It is an excellent example of:

1. Productive/proactive communication between the school and the home.
2. A teacher educating students and parents about the reasons behind classroom decisions.
3. A teacher training her students to use AFL strategies to take ownership of their academic progress.
4. A teacher realizing that using AFL doesn't require a teacher to change everything. Instead AFL is often a good way to describe the BEST of the TRIED and TRUE. AFL increases our focus to make sure we increase our use of TRIED and TRUE methods.

(By the way - I underline the word "and" in TRIED and TRUE for extra emphasis. Sometimes after years of teaching we think we're using TRIED and TRUE methods when we're actually only using TRIED methods.)

So here's the email - (the underlining/bolding was added by me):
Hello Parents and Students!

We are wrapping up our last major unit of the year!! Time flies when you're having fun!

We will be having our end of the 5th six weeks test this Thursday and Friday. The test will cover chapters 8, 9 and a small piece of chapter 10. Students are to look over their old tests and quizzes to gain an understanding of what they have struggled with in the past. Salem High School (students, faculty, and administration) has really been working together on the idea of Assessments FOR learning. If students can recognize what they don't know, they can spend their maximum amount of time and effort reviewing and practicing that specific material instead of practicing material that they have already mastered. This is nothing new, but instead, it is a classic tried-and-true method of studying.

To prepare for this cumulative test, I have uploaded several practice quizzes on our class website as well as notes. Please feel free to access all of this material as needed.

If you have any questions I will be available before school by 7:15 each morning.

Good luck studying!

Beth Denton

So what do you think? Nice communication. Nice attempt to train students and parents in the ways of AFL. Give some thought to how you could let your students know about how/why you use AFL in your classroom and how you want them to use it in their studies.
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