This blog post is part of a series on how school leaders can become instructional change agents. In last week’s post, Adam Drummond offered insight into how education leaders can serve as instructional change agents.
When was the last time you intentionally talked to a student about his or her learning? How did that conversation go? What did you do as a result of the feedback you received? With whom did you share that information? How does the student voice impact your culture? Research tells us that when we include students in decisions, we save time, energy, and resources.
We often forget that schools were created for student learning. I know you are thinking, “That’s not true” or “I don’t do that.” But if we stop and reflect on the day-to-day moments in a given week, how many decisions do you consciously make through the lens of what is best for students? When we make decisions that just happen to also be in the best interest of students, we get lucky. I challenge you to make decisions intentionally based on what is best for students first.
Our role as school leaders has become more and more difficult due to the increasing demands of the politics, community, economy, and social realities that face our students each and every day. We can quickly become consumed with test scores, discipline, and teacher evaluation requirements. But somewhere in the midst of the paperwork, emails, meetings, and phone calls are the voices of our students that cannot be forgotten or overlooked.
Bring student voices to the forefront of important conversations at your school through a method called “minute meetings.” This is a surefire way to make an immediate impact on the development of your school culture. Follow these easy steps to implement minute meetings in your school.
STEP 1: Predetermine a topic that you want to learn students’ opinions about. Perhaps you want to get student perspectives on how homework impacts their learning, for example, or you want to find out the most challenging issues students face related to bullying or peer pressure.
STEP 2: Design one to two questions that you want to ask students.
STEP 3*: Calculate the percentage of students you want to meet with in a given timeframe—two or three weeks, for instance. I recommend meeting with at least 10 percent of your student population. In a school of 500, that is 50 students—or five students a day for five minutes a day for 10 days (again, think one minute per student). (*If you have other administrators, counselors, or teacher leaders you’d like to engage in the minute meetings, share the vision and divide and conquer. With additional staff involved in the process you can increase the percentage of students who give feedback.)
STEP 4: Schedule the visits. Work to gain a diverse range of responses based on your school’s set of demographics.
STEP 5: Meet with students and write down their responses. Determine how you are going to capture the student feedback to the question. I recommend a simple Google Form that you can use to capture the answers the students give you during the meeting. Afterward, you can place the answers in an easy-to-access Excel file.
STEP 6: Identify trends. What did you notice in the data? What are the trends? What were concerns? What were celebrations?
STEP 7: Share the information with key stakeholders. Be sure all stakeholders understand the results of the information gathered. We tend to immediately share with faculty. Be sure to also share back with students. Students who see their voice impacting decisions in the school are more vested in their school.
We need to create a sense of urgency and understanding in how student voice can impact the work we do in all areas of the school. When we engage student voice in the learning process, we increase learner engagement and relevancy in our schools. We need to make sure that the adults know this but, even more importantly, that the students do. In a recent study, 43 percent of students said they felt adults listened to their suggestions. This means that nearly 6 out of every 10 students believe their thoughts, opinions, concerns, and ideas do not matter. That is troubling!
Minute meetings offer an effective way for students to know their voice matters. Plus, they offer a chance to make a big impact with little impact to your daily calendar. If you spend even 15 minutes every day engaging with students and looking at feedback, this is only 3.1 percent of each work day. Imagine the type of impact that minute meetings can have in enhancing your school culture with only 3.1 percent effort from you. There is no better return on investment than a conversation with a student.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of HMH.
To learn more about improving school culture and acting for impact in your district, join Adam Drummond, Director of Professional Learning for ICLE, and more than 5,000 educators in 100+ sessions at the 27th Annual Model Schools Conference in Washington, D.C., from June 23–26, 2019. There, Drummond will also launch his new book, The Instructional Change Agent: 48 Ways to Be the Leader Your School Needs.
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