Traditionally, students would “take blame” or ownership for what they know and don’t know. This mindset is shifting. The tables have turned. Students are starting to ask good questions about assessment practices and pedagogy, and to look critically at the teacher’s professional practice with a good sense of what’s fair and reasonable. However, schools are not a safe place for students to express their questions about how they’re being taught and assessed. They remain silent. They find their voice, however, on social media. With photos and quick comments, students express their concerns and feelings of injustice online with peers and possibly the world.
Students want to be active participants in their learning. They want a voice and have a strong desire for student agency and autonomy. The school system needs to respond. Students feel powerless and disengaged when they are expected to be complacent and compliant. Why should students wait for high school to end before figuring out what they want and love to do? K-12 is the time to play, experiment, and explore oneself and one’s strengths. The teacher or school leader should not be a barrier to this learning process. Fear-based learning comes from fear-based leadership. Students should feel safe providing formative feedback to teachers as advocates of their learning to enhance their learning experience in K-12 schools.
Listen to students. Be responsive. Take action. This goes beyond the annual student forum or student council meeting. It’s about taking appropriate pedagogical action based on student feedback. This is an opportunity for teachers and school leaders to reflect on practice, policy, and doing what’s best for students and student learning. Ask, “Would you want to buy a ticket to attend your class or school?” Self-reflection, student feedback, and taking action must be visible, restorative, and responsive.
We need to pay attention to what students are saying and not get burdened or blinded by the grind or rigour of our work. Going beyond the ego and into a place that’s vulnerable, kind, and receptive, will help us become true partners in our students’ learning.
Participant reflections on signals of change
Participants at the 2016 EdCan Network Regional Exchanges discussed more signals of change than we could possibly cover — but we wanted to share a sense of their range and significance. We invited a number of participants to write a short piece reflecting on one of the signals they brought to the Exchange.
Discover more signals at: www.edcan.ca/RegExReport
Photos: Max Cooke and Yolande Nantel
First published in Education Canada, March 2018