How can schools improve what they are doing?
Ask the pupils.
Giving children some opportunities to think and talk about aspects of teaching and learning can have an impact on school improvement.
Pupil participation and pupil voice is not new but it is out of fashion and underutilised. Giving children a say is important for developing their rights and responsibilities and teachers can learn so much from them.
Asking children what they think about your teaching and their school is a valuable way of mapping the terrain and changing what you do. Sometimes what you think is working, isn’t and we need children to tell us.
One way to get at the heart of how we can improve is by giving children a questionnaire. These come in all shapes and sizes and need careful planning.
They don’t need to be too long and they need to give the space for children to write some comments rather than just the ‘Circle one of the four answers – Always, Often, Sometimes, Never’ type. Avoid the ‘Yes-No’ questions as this will tell you nothing.
Here are some questions I have found useful from Consulting Pupils by Julia Flutter and Jean Rudduck. The questions are taken from a school in Essex and I’ve used them in other schools with some very interesting results!
Does your teacher:
- Explain things clearly?
- Seem enthusiastic about the subject?
- Show they know the subject well?
- Encourage everybody to take part in the lesson?
- Expect high standards of work from you?
- Explain what the rules are when working in class?
- Expect high standards of behaviour from you?
- Quickly go over the work you have just done when starting a new lesson?
- Make it clear what you are expected to do and learn from each lesson?
- Summarise what you should have learnt at the end of the lesson?
- Set work which is too hard?
- Set work which is too easy?
This will give you some useful insights no doubt but don’t forget the learner – it’s not all about you! Flutter and Rudduck offer some more questions:
- How do you learn best?
- What helps you to learn?
- What gets in the way of your learning?
- Why do you find it more difficult to learn certain things?
- Do you learn better through particular styles of teaching?
- What encourages you to work harder at your learning?
- How do you know if you have succeeded in learning something?
- What does your ideal lesson look like?
We are so busy ‘covering’ the curriculum we forget to ask some basic questions that could really make a difference.