Tibor Plánk, the principal of the Hunfalvy Bilingual Secondary School, taking part in the project, welcomed the participants and opened the two-day long project meeting. He emphasized in his welcome speech that as the leader of a Student Voice participating school highly appreciates the goals of the project and the educational model shift. Afterwards, participants not only observed but also got involved in an English class with grade 9 led by Zsuzsa Matiscsák, one of the teachers of Hunfalvy School. The lesson which was based on the idea and the vocabulary of the movie ‘Holiday’, which was chosen by the students themselves, who designed and described their own place to live. Furthermore, in the frame of a fictional home exchange program, they tried out home-swapping while using an up-to-date, home related vocabulary. Following the class, students could give feedbacks on their own experiences, whereas the teacher assessed their performance. Participants acknowledged the students’ fluent and spontaneous use of English, while they also praised the high standard of student-friendly teaching.
In their presentation about formative assessment, Norman Emerson and Grainne Mackenreid from the Irish National Council of Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) emphasized that the adoption of the method implies a deep-rooted engagement and a cultural change of approach in the classroom suggesting the reconstruction of the relationship between teacher and students where teachers turn from lecturer into a leader encouraging the students to get more involved in the planning of their own learning process. Participants formulated the following statement about the notion: ’Formative assessment is the process of seeking and interpreting evidence for use by learners and their teachers to decide where the learners are in their learning, where they need to go and how best to get there.’
Grainne Mackenreid evoked a former idea of Norman Emerson, namely that the project avoids being superficial and influences learning attitudes profoundly and in long-term. Their presentation outlined the functioning of formative assessment which mainly intends to help the students to become active, independent, engaged, and self-regulating learners. For that sake teachers have to make it clear what, why and how they will learn, and also what the related success criteria can be.
One of the highlight events of the program was the presentation of the Intellectual outputs during which the partnering institutions reported about their outcomes, after which the invited ‘critical friends’: Gábor Halász, professor of Eötvös Loránd University of Budapest (ELTE), and expert consultant of the EKU – HIERD, as well as György Mészáros, associate professor of ELTE and representatives of the student councils gave their feedbacks.
Gábor Halász considered the goals of the project especially favourable and also was pleased with the idea that throughout these two days we can literally hear the voice of the students. He tended to underline that all over Europe education should lay more emphasis on formative assessment. Besides, he assigned the exceptional importance of the fact that the purposes and the concepts of the projects should be well-determined and emphasised that Student Voice should put more focus on the cognitive processes of teaching and learning, as well as on supporting students to become democratic citizens of their country. He added that a possible further outcome could be the involvement of students in the teacher trainings and finally that higher education could also learn a lot from that Erasmus project. György Mészáros thought that it might be useful to enhance and deepen the different ways we can express ourselves and that the concept of voice interpreting it in an educational context (and wishing to give a voice to the students in the name of a democratic structure), is only one out of many others. He also remarked that the project is mainly concerning classroom situations, while student voice could be perceived in a much broader range. Another approach concerns the different voices within the society, which does not only appear in schools and through classroom situations, but generally concentrates on the assertion of the repressed voice of the students with a disfavoured background. For that sake it can be important to examine the social-economic background of the different students too. Meanwhile, he also aimed to attract attention to the fact that the question of voice can exclusively be understood as part of the complexity of the power relations.
Suzana Romšak from the National Education Institute Slovenia (ZRSŠ) reported how they managed to raise Slovenian students’ awareness, and make student voice more powerful and consequently, reinforce formative assessment in classrooms. Melinda Vári-Barcsa gave a very impressive presentation about the school Gyermekek Háza where she teaches English underlining the values which correspond to what Student Voice is targeting (like personal and community development, various types of assessment, etc.). Dr. Márton Bodó, researcher of EKU – HIERD, introduced another interesting topic from the point of view of the project, namely the community service, which also puts the accent on the active participation of students. Nicholas Morgan from the Educational Institute of Scotland spoke about the upcoming national curriculum, the evolution of a National Improvement Framework, and how it tries to overcome some previous disparities: to remain systematic, and at the same time to let teachers express their own inventions. The reactions were mostly positive.
At the end of the two-day program Ada Holcar Brunauer, also from the ZRSŠ, Slovenia, summed up the major events of the meeting, pointed out the activities of the partnering countries until the next gathering, which is due in October 2017 and will take place in the Netherlands. She also thanked the students and the ‘critical friends’ for enriching the presentations with their feedbacks, ideas and personal perceptions which facilitated the establishment of a meaningful and productive dialog between the participants.