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Cascade Matters is the blog of Cascade Educational Consultants. Cascade has extensive experience in policy development, advocacy, education reform, youth leadership, teaching and learning strategies, education collaborations and civic development. We are committed to ensuring schools create and sustain quality teaching and learning environments for all students to be successful in school and contribute to their communities as active principled citizens. Learn more about us.

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Learning From Students Part 3: Implications

The following is the third of three blogs reporting on a new protocol used to interact with and collect and analyze data from students about their school experiences.

In the
first blog the new protocol examined how we engaged four junior high schools and a teacher on a day’s visit throughout the City of Prague; seeing the city through the eyes of the students and engaging them in conversations about their school experiences. The results, expressed in the second blog, were organized by what we learned about the protocol and what we learned about the students’ school and community-based activities.

What do these experiences mean? And, what implications do they offer for students, teachers and school leaders?

Anytime we can engage students in conversations about their school experiences we gain valuable information. One of the implications employing the protocol is to ensure student responses are informative by (1) ensuring we provide a safe space for interactions, (2) using prompts that are meaningful to students, (3) providing opportunities for students to ask questions and (4) ensuring an adequate amount of time and appropriate strategies to reflect on the experiences and their meanings for us individually and collectively.

The following implications for students, teachers and school leaders build on our experiences and the protocol we used. While we use the concept of implications they also can be used as recommendations to authentically engage students. We recognize that many schools implement some of these strategies and offer them as a recipe to connect the responsibilities of students, teachers and school leaders.

Implications for Students
  • Seek opportunities to share your experiences with others, and not wait for teachers and school administrators to engage you.
  • Identify your talents and consistently find ways of demonstrating them to other students, teachers, staff, school leaders and community members.
  • Seek leadership opportunities through school (e.g., student council, class leadership positions, clubs, sports, etc.) and community (e.g., volunteering, social organizations, the arts, etc.) options.
  • Create opportunities to reflect and explore the meaning of your experiences now and in the future.
  • Advocate for all students to be engaged in school and community-based activities to build skills as well as examine how classroom learning applies to the world outside.
  • Examine the school’s mission and priorities and demonstrate how you acquire and enhance the corresponding knowledge, skills and dispositions.
  • Develop activities for other students and adults to see your school and community through your eyes (e.g., guiding them through your school, sharing your community experiences, etc.).
Implications for Teachers
  • Provide quality leadership opportunities for students to gain and enhance skills to organize, implement and evaluate team-building activities.
  • Identify the talents of each student and assist them to understand how they align with curriculum, content and preparation for life.
  • Ensure each student truly feels that the classroom and school are safe places to take risks and learn from them.
  • Create activities that connect the school and the community (e.g., walkabouts and similar experiential activities).
  • Seek out opportunities in which students serve as guides in school and community-based activities that engage staff, parents and community partners.
  • Provide opportunities for students to understand how their classes combine for a comprehensive education rather than as independent venues for learning specific core content.
  • Promote the connection of arts, sports and extracurricular activities to course content.
  • Implement reflection activities for student to examine the relevancy of their experiences to course content.
  • Design and implement ways students can contribute to a safe, equitable and engaging classroom and school climate.
  • Support student curiosity and provide quality opportunities for them to connect this sense of “wonder” to course content.
  • Ensure students plan field trips and that preparation and reflection are built into courses.
Implications for School Leaders
  • Create opportunities to see the school through the eyes of students, by engaging them in classrooms, hallways and community-based activities).
  • Sustain an open-door environment so that students feel comfortable interacting with you and other school leaders.
  • Create opportunities for students to guide individuals and groups through the school (e.g., guiding prospective students, school board members and community partners).
  • Ask students what they most appreciate about their school experiences and the impact those experiences have on them?
  • Create opportunities for students to actively participate in advisory boards, seeking their insights and opinions for enhancing their education experiences.
  • Provide professional development for teachers and staff to authentically engage students in classes, clubs and extracurricular activities.
  • Include student’s experiences in school news, web sites and communications to demonstrate the pride students have in their school and the knowledge and skills they acquire.
  • Honor the talents of every student and ensure a safe, equitable and engaging school climate for all students to be successful in school and life.
Summary
The opportunity we experienced with student leaders in Prague (1) taught us how to design and implement an engaging mutual learning protocol; (2) surfaced a set of findings about students’ school experiences and their application to education and life beyond school; and (3) encouraged us to identify implications for students, teachers and school administrators.


About the author: Terry Pickeral, president Cascade Educational Consultants has extensive experience in policy development, advocacy, education reform, youth leadership, teaching and learning strategies, education collaborations and civic development. His commitment is to ensuring schools create and sustain quality teaching and learning environments for all students to be successful in school and contribute to their communities as active principled citizens.

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