Can educators design more meaningful professional development if they allow student voice to drive the conversation? According to professional development facilitator Michelle Blanchet, the answer is yes.
As a facilitator and designer of professional learning, I’ve been excited to see the rise in design thinking and other problem-solving formats. It’s been a struggle, however, to find ways to authentically capture student voice so that participants can effectively use workshop time. Too often, we get stuck asking participants to guess how their students might feel about a topic, how they might approach a challenge, etc., when it would be much easier to just ask the students.
Professional learning could take on a new dimension if we were able to get student feedback and insights on topics before heading into workshops.
Incorporating student voice has several benefits:
-Provides clarity: Planning for student voice forces the facilitator to get organized quickly by establishing clear goals, objectives, and tasks so the participants have adequate time and guidance as to how they will gather student feedback and understand how it will be used during their session.
-Builds relationships: When facilitators ask teachers to engage their students in their professional learning, PD becomes something we do with students and not just for students. We gain invaluable insights that enable us to use professional development more effectively, and students feel like their opinions are valued.
-Boosts engagement and collaboration: Lectures and other types of sit-and-gets often prevent anyone, let alone students, from having a voice. Incorporating student voice challenges the facilitator to think through the format of the workshop so that activities align and participants engage with student feedback in a hands-on way.
-Prepares teachers for PD: When participants have had the opportunity to collect student feedback, they can personalize professional learning to fit their needs. During sessions, they can better anticipate opportunities and constraints to apply their learning to instruction or other challenges.
She acknowledges that capturing student voice can be challenging. However, using tools like Google Forms or MailChimp to capture survey data, iMovie to record student interviews, or even informal group discussions with students can help capture their perspectives and can result in better, more authentic professional development.