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2018 TASH Conference has ended
Each year, the TASH Conference brings together a diverse community of stakeholders who gain information, learn about resources, and connect with others across the country to strengthen the disability field. This year’s conference theme, “Be Creative - Innovative Solutions for an Inclusive Life,” reminds us to think outside the box during times of uncertainty. Creativity, innovation, and determination can pave the way for meaningful and inclusive lives for people with disabilities.
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Thursday, November 29 • 10:55am - 11:45am
Learning Stories: Strengths-based Assessment that Connects Preschool Teachers and Families Seating Available

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Limited Capacity seats available

Have you ever felt the excitement of sharing a powerful learning moment with families? Learn about the process & challenges of writing Learning Stories that celebrate the strengths of young children. Young children experience success in school for many reasons. Certainly, one critical factor is a seamless connection between school and home (Gallindo&Sheldon, 2012). Children with and without disabilities benefit when their teachers and family build relationships through constant communication, shared goals, and shared learning (DEC Recommended Practices, 2014). One strategy to engage families is Learning Stories (LS). Used as a narrative dialogue between families, teachers, and students, this formative portfolio assessment sheds light on learning strengths and individual progress (Carr,2001; Wager et al.,2015). The challenge for special educators is in moving away from writing objective assessment data about meeting developmental milestones, particularly for IEP development, toward stories that reveal the strengths of the child within child-directed experiences. Learning Stories use storytelling to describe a key learning moment for an individual student, emphasizing how a child approaches the learning process through problem solving, curiosity, creativity, communication, relationships, and independence(Carr,2001). It is often these approaches to learning that are absent from understandings of children with and without disabilities throughout the assessment process, but which is valued by early childhood teachers (Collado,2015). Once the learning moment is captured, an essential next step is sharing the learning with both the student and family. Reading the story with the child as the protagonist empowers the family and child, drawing them into the excitement of play-based learning in preschool. Families are encouraged to tell how they experienced the story and the connection to learning at home. We found this feedback from families led to fine tuning of individual students' instruction, learning environments, and supports. Also, these interactions served as the foundation by which strong partnerships were built with families that honored their child's individual strengths, interests, and culture. In a research study at an inclusive preschool center in the Midwest, it was evident that special education teachers struggled the most with writing jargon-free stories that focused on learning approaches rather than developmental skills and as a result the responses of the families to their learning stories were limited. When Learning Stories are written well, they serve to motivate students, improve students' confidence in learning, communicate effectively with students and families about their learning needs, and authentically represent students' learning potential rather than just weaknesses (Bourke et al,2011). It is apparent that at this center, as the teachers improved in their abilities to write strengths-based stories they have developed greater connections with families and the students with and without disabilities. This presentation will demonstrate how a quest to better align assessment practice with teaching, learning and the inclusion of families at one inclusive early childhood center in a large urban midwest school district led to a shift in portfolio development from the inclusion of standardized, skill-based assessments to sociocultural narrative assessments using LS. The principal and researcher are thrilled to collaboratively share their experiences and guide participants in writing their own stories. The presentation will end with findings from the research study on the impact of LS on the special education teachers and families as we sought to understand how the new portfolio assessment approach shifted the assessment culture at this center. It was incredible to see the transformation in the teachers as they learned how to implement this strengths-based assessment approach. They began to be excited about assessment and found these stories about their students to more accurately represent their own values for what learning is important to celebrate in preschool, namely approaches to learning (e.g., curiosity, problem-solving, cooperation) that set the foundation for future success. It was also fascinating to follow the development of various teachers across specialities (e.g., general and special education) as well as across students with varying abilities ranging from those who were typically developing to those with more significant needs. For such professional development to effectively be shared with other schools and professionals seeking to transform their portfolios, it is critical to share what the professional development (e.g., Teacher Learning Communities, training, and one-on-one feedback) looked like as well as the experiences of the teachers and principal throughout this process. Presenters will include the researcher and professional development consultant as well as principal. We are passionate about the importance of moving away from standardized assessments to ensure all children are viewed as independent and thriving learners so are thrilled for the opportunity to share our experiences with other professionals in the field of early childhood.

Presenters
avatar for Cindy Collado

Cindy Collado

Assistant Professor, California State University, Sacramento



Thursday November 29, 2018 10:55am - 11:45am PST
Belmont - Second Floor 1401 SW Naito Parkway, Portland, OR 97201