2018 Conference Highlights

Submitted by Lorna Earl, Ph.D. CAfLN President

The CAfLN Conference opened the evening of May 3 with a town hall meeting with the founding members, Ken O’Connor, Damian Cooper and Lorna Earl, led by Lori Jeschke. This conversation began using questions that had been put forward by members, focussing on the power of AfL and reminders about the challenges of really moving to the spirit of AfL, engaging students in their own learning, becoming partners with parents in their children’s learning and creating the conditions for AfL to thrive in schools and districts. Listen in for a minute here. It was a provocative beginning to the conversations that continued over canapes and wine.

The real action came on Friday May 4th.  It was a normal overcast day in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.  But inside the Hilton Hotel, there was light, energy, camaraderie and MUSIC.   The day began with a smudging ceremony led by Mi’kmaq elder Peggy Wentzell and the Mi’kmaq honour song performed by students from Chester District School; a reminder of our connections to the land and to the people who came before us in our magnificent country.

The keynote presentation was like no other.  Nathan Beeler, the conductor of the Halifax All-City Wind Ensemble demonstrated AfL in action, by introducing the band to a piece of music that they had never played before and walking them through the music and sight reading for the first time.  It was magical.

 Nathan modeled, gave examples, introduced key concepts, provided practice, gave feedback, made jokes, connected with individuals and groups within the band, built on strengths, and gave them responsibility, with high expectations for their learning.

After the lesson, the students joined the conference participants in a jigsaw exercise to discuss what happened, using the framework of Dylan Wiliam’s (2011) Five Formative Assessment Strategies to Improve Student Learning:

  1. Clarifying, sharing, and understanding learning intentions and criteria for success – getting the students to really understand what their classroom experience will be and how their success will be measured.
  2. Engineering effective classroom discussions, activities, and learning tasks that elicit evidence of learning– developing effective classroom instructional strategies that allow for the measurement of success.
  3. Providing feedback that moves learning forward– working with students to provide them the information they need to better understand problems and solutions.
  4. Activating learners as instructional resources for one another– getting students involved with each other in discussions and working groups can help improve student learning.
  5. Activating learners as owners of their own learning–self-regulation of learning leads to student performance improvement.

While the conference participants went to their workshop sessions, the students and Mr. Beeler went to a rehearsal room to continue to work on the piece of music they had started learning.

The participants chose from 3 offerings in each of the two breakout sessions, all of which were led by CAfLN membersTake a moment and browse through the breakout sessions. If you click on the title of most sessions you will see the slides or handouts that were provided.

The audience was humming when we returned to the plenary session to end the conference.  After a full day of professional conversations and insights related to AfL, they were ready to sit back and listen to the results of a day of rehearsal by the Halifax All-City Wind Ensemble. You can see the results here. No one was disappointed.

To end the conversation, several students made comments and answered questions posed by the audience, leaving us with tangible evidence of the power of assessment for student self-regulation and success.

All in all, it was a fabulous day.  We look forward to conversations across CAfLN members throughout the year, and to continue our work next year in Delta, BC, May 2, 3 and 4.