Thursday, July 27, 2006

Listening to the students!

  Posted by Picasa Whose ‘voices’ ought to be heard when it comes to what is going on in schools?

Who tells the schools story?

Who knows best what happens in classrooms?

School Reviews often listen to teachers’ views but rarely listen to parents or students. Parent views are all too often limited to school surveys and questionnaires but some schools are beginning the process of interviewing random groups of parents about important issues. In primary schools parents are a common sight visiting or helping in classrooms. Not so in secondary schools. There the parents are kept at a healthy distance. Often not even teachers visit each other. Privatization of practice is the norm.

The answer to who knows best about what goes on in the classrooms are the those closest to the action – the students themselves. They are the ultimate insiders and have the most intimate insight into the quality of the learning they receive. Teachers might supply a ‘bird’s eye’ view of the whole class and note patterns but it is the students who have the ‘worm’s eye’ view!

Students have the richest insight into the hidden life that goes on in individual classrooms.

Pupils are the school largest untapped source of information. Any organization that overlooks the experience of its ‘clients’ would be in trouble.

Information about suspension and behavior problem can indicate valuable information or indicators about student experience that all is not well, but only where the teachers do not hold ‘deficit theory ideas’ about students. Such teachers tend to blame everyone but themselves for student problems. If schools are alienating their students the question to ask is what would make all students want to attend school?

Schools ought to develop processes to add student ‘voices’ to school management and reviews far beyond having a student on the Board of Trustees or having a student council. Students have a pretty good idea about what makes a good teacher and sharing their perceptions would help any teacher improve their skill. Most students are fair and honest in their views but they can also be critics, challenging some of the assumptions current schools are based on.

Student group discussions based around a set of question would provide ideas for school and teachers to improve their performance. What would make an ideal school for students? What teacher behavior do they appreciate? What ‘turns students on’ to learning – or what ‘turns then off’?

Teachers could also share modern insights with each other about how students learn and how their teaching can leave students responsible for their own learning. How can students' questions and views be integrated into their teaching?

Many schools have made great advances, the past decade or so, in assisting students select study topics making use of their own question and valuing their own prior ideas as well as encouraging goal setting and self evaluation using criteria negotiated with the students.

In such schools, where students and teachers work in partnership, teachers would have nothing to fear from listening to their students ‘voices’.

Such schools would be well on the way to developing a personalized learning where students are leaders of their own learning and teachers see their role as assisting students gain the skills and knowledge the students need to achieve personal excellence

Such developments would require both trust in teachers and students but if realized would develop schools as true learning environments.


Anonymous said...

I agree!

Anonymous said...

If schools were businesses they would have no customers - schools ought to voluntary but so much fun that students would want to attend!

Anonymous said...

Some teachers would be too frightened to get real feedback from their students - the truth would hurt too much.

Anonymous said...

Teachers should learn to face brutal reality - some of them are dead boring - and highly paid! They should be paid only if kids want to attend their classes and can show progress!