I came across the following reflection this week in an article capturing lessons learned from talking with students, in this case about some student survey results:
“(Dr. Deborah Moore) said that in subsequent conversations the youths lamented that “they don’t feel like they have a real school experience; they have more of a series of classroom experiences.”
This seems like a simple statement, an obvious, if concerning, insight by the students. But, if we take it seriously, the implications are actually quite profound – and are potentially an incredibly powerful place to start if we really want to reform education.
In the true form of a great insight, it generates tons of questions:
Why don’t we talk to students more when we make decisions about them and their education? Why isn’t student engagement fundamental to education reform efforts? Why don’t students ever get to see, interpret, or process the data we collect about them or their schools?
I could go on with the student-as-stakeholder-in-education questions, but I could start to spiral pretty quickly. It’s a bit of a soap-box issue, so I’ll spare you here.
Instead, I want to focus on the bigger question underlying the student insight:
What if we made decisions with the goal of intentionally creating an educational experience for students in our schools (rather than attempting to deliver education to students through our schools)?
The former requires common vision, goals, effective communication, and shared leadership. The latter is easily fragmented, highly variable, and makes it difficult to identify weak leadership.
If we started with crafting the educational/school experience for students first:
Measuring Success: Would we continue to emphasize only the metrics that show whether or not a student has “succeeded” in school, or would we expand to look more broadly to understand how and if a school has succeeded for the student?
Expectations: Would we set and articulate our expectations for students on the basis of short-term metrics like test scores, or would we use these metrics to engage students in creating a vision for what they want their lives to look like in the future and help them articulate how education can help them get there?
Student Voice: Would we still treat the traditional survey as our best (or only) tool for getting student insights or feedback – or might we engage them in building, evaluating, and improving the educational experience through ongoing partnership and dialogue?
Communication: Would we still consider school communication to be those messages from adults to students (or school to parents), or would we systematically integrate students into content creation, communication, and promotion – and not just consumption of school information?
Technology: Would we continue to proliferate classroom-management technologies that teachers choose a-la-carte, meaning students accumulate 5-6 logins and are left to navigate that many technology platforms just to know what’s what for their classes?
There is so much to discuss and so much potentially to reframe and reassess if we apply this student insight and start seeking to intentionally craft a holistic educational/school experience.
While there are many more questions to explore, we do know from these students:
A series of classrooms doesn’t make a school.
A series of classes doesn’t make an education.