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Cascade Matters is the blog of Cascade Educational Consultants. Cascade has extensive experience in policy development, advocacy, education reform, youth leadership, teaching and learning strategies, education collaborations and civic development. We are committed to ensuring schools create and sustain quality teaching and learning environments for all students to be successful in school and contribute to their communities as active principled citizens. Learn more about us.

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Learning From Students Part 1: A New Protocol

Prague-1
The following is the first of three blogs reporting on a new protocol used to interact with and collect and analyze data from students about their school experiences.

Over the past decade I co-created and implemented several national and international case study or school visit protocols to examine students’ school experiences. The content of these initiatives included civic learning, student leadership and engagement, social inclusion and school climate.

Consistent in each of these methodologies is the belief that observing and interacting with students and adults in their normal school environment effectively identify strategies, insights, lessons learned and impacts.

Specific methods used during the case studies and school visits include interviews, focus groups, surveys, conversations, observations and review of print and social media. We consistently find students and adults willing to share their experiences and review our analyses to ensure we capture both the content and context of their daily interactions.

The result of these opportunities has been the development and dissemination of stories, data, analyses and reports to deepen and broaden successful quality experiences leading to the development of knowledge, skill and dispositions.

This fall when we had an opportunity to conduct a school visit at Riverside Junior High School in Prague, Czech Republic we modified our engagement protocols and developed a different strategy to understand students’ school experiences.

The new protocol actually required students to leave their school campus and engage in a set of experiences within the greater community. The belief is that ultimately students will find their education relevant outside of the school environment and engaging them now in community experiences begins to narrow the divide between what they learn and how the knowledge, skills and dispositions are applied in a community setting.

In some ways this is similar to joining students on a school field trip, however there are critical differences. These differences include engaging four students and one teacher during the day, ensuring the students actually design and implement the day’s schedule, we begin the day with an orientation at the school and conclude the day back at the school for a formal reflection activity,

In short the Riverside Junior High School students would function a tour guides, designing and implementing a series of opportunities for us to explore, through their eyes, things that are important to them in the Prague community. This required them, as a team, to identify community places and interactions they find relevant to their lives and demonstrate connections to their school experiences.

While the students designed the community-based experiences we developed a set of questions we believe engage them in conversations and analyses of their school experiences.

Of course we understand some of the limitations of this methodology, such as limiting the number of student participants, taking students away from the school setting does not allow us to observe them in their daily school experiences and ensuring a teacher accompanied us during the activity. We recognized these limitations and determined that the benefits of quality time with students in the community activities they planned outweighed the methodological limitations.

The next blog will report the results of this new protocol which will be followed by a final blog identifying implications for our work and the work of others to better understand students’ school experiences, insights, talents and skills.


About the author: Terry Pickeral, president Cascade Educational Consultants has extensive experience in policy development, advocacy, education reform, youth leadership, teaching and learning strategies, education collaborations and civic development. His commitment is to ensuring schools create and sustain quality teaching and learning environments for all students to be successful in school and contribute to their communities as active principled citizens.
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