In a Twitter chat this week, I shared that one our best PD experiences this year was when we hosted a student panel and asked them what was working for them at our school…and what wasn’t. It was powerful to hear student voices and have them call us out on some things we need to improve.
The Twitterverse asked for more details so here are the basics. We kept it pretty simple. I invited students to participate from a broad range of backgrounds, both those who have been successful and those who have struggled. I emphasized repeatedly in the invitation and follow-up that we really wanted to hear what they had to say and learn from them. One even took her role super seriously and gathered feedback from a whole bunch of other students to share with us. Then, on the day of the panel, I emphasized with the whole panel and the audience that the room was a safe space. Students may share hard things and that’s ok. And they may share great things and that’s ok too. We just want to hear what they think. Laying that groundwork was really important.
Here were the questions we asked:
- Tell us your story: When did you come to our school? Why did you start taking online courses (since we’re an online program)? How long have you been with us?
- What has been good about your experiences at our school?
- When have you felt really supported as a student?
- When have you felt disconnected or lonely or stuck as a student in this school? What led to that feeling and what did you do about it?
- What’s a meaningful assignment or project from your coursework at our school that stands out to you? What made it meaningful?
- If you could give one piece of advice to our school for how to improve the student experience, what would it be?
Then we opened it up for teachers to ask questions. Much of what they asked was to follow up on themes students brought up in our initial questions. They were great at asking for more details.
Then, once the students left, we compiled a list of takeaways as a staff. These were the things that really stood out from the student’s answers that we wanted to think about. Our leadership team then used that list to think about action items to take in the coming year to improve the student experience. My big takeaway question: How do we bring in student voices more often in every area of our school? Our most important stakeholders deserve a strong voice and it’s up to us to build space for it.