Customer Feedback: How Would Students Reform Their Schools?
Last month, I went to Finland with PDK International for ten days
of visiting schools and talking to teachers and educational professionals about
educational policy and school reform. Back home, my students were studying the
Finnish education system. As they
read chapters from Finnish Lessons, World Class Education, and Surpassing
Shanghai, they had an eye toward our final product. On December 4th, they would brief our school's
Faculty Council about a proposed reform to our school.
While I was gone, my classes got a lot of work done. They studied about Finland and
brainstormed over thirty different school-reform ideas. Some of the ideas they came up with
- More minimum days during the school year so that teachers
had time to collaborate - currently my school does and early-release day twive a month and my student would like that to happen each week.
- A longer break in between classes so that students could
take a mental break between thinking about math and history
- Better and updates school materials and technology
- Smaller class sizes
- More class work organized in collaborative groups
- Reinstating the academic counselors who were cut in the
last budget crunch
- Improved training for new teachers
- A student lounge where students could rest and socialize
during lunch and breaks
When I returned, my classes narrowed our myriad ideas into
two proposals that each class would develop into policy briefs and
presentations for December 4th. Each class would also break into two teams, one to grapple
with each proposal. In the end, my
Introduction to Education students had formed four teams for four different
In first period, the students decided to work on dedicated
classroom budgets for supplies; and increasing the number of minimum days each
year. In second period, the two
topics were reducing the ratio of students to teachers in our core classes; and
improving quality of our teaching staff.
I was excited to embark on the explorations that my students
were about to undertake. It was
clear to me that each team was already taking their work seriously.
As I write this, the projects are completed. Each team successfully wrote a two to
three page policy brief for their proposal. Two of the teams designed PowerPoint presentations to
augment their speakers. The other
two teams created triptychs that their speakers referenced on the 4th.
Our presentations are over, but the larger project of tranforming our school continues. As we wait to hear back from the faculty council, my classes have moved onto our next project. Next year, when they are juniors, they'll pick up these projects again and do deeper research into the needs of our school, surveying and intervewing students and teachers about these proposals. Come senior year, my students will switch into action mode and work on making their ideas real.