Supporting the creation of a strong school culture is an omnipresent and ongoing process for schools and school leadership. Schools with a strong culture of gathering student feedback have a stronger, more positive culture overall.
When school leaders and teachers signal to their students they are invested in their voice and their learning, school culture flourishes.
Students become more engaged in their school.
And, through greater student engagement, teachers are more motivated to positively contribute to their school.
So, if you're looking to improve your school's overall culture, the number one thing you can do is check in more with those at the heart of your school: your students. Let's explore what that means.
According to Ebony Bridwell-Mitchell, Associate Professor of Education at Harvard University, in an effective organizational culture:
Understanding this, school culture can be defined as “the basic assumptions, norms and values, and cultural artefacts that are shared by school members, which influence their functioning at school” (Maslowski 2001).
It’s a crucial aspect of any school, and has a vital role in enhancing school effectiveness (Heck and Marcoulides,1996). It impacts teaching, learning and every aspect of the school's wider community.
It encourages authentic communication between students and teachers
Authenticity is key to a strong and sustainable school culture. Student feedback similarly is only valuable when it is an authentic representation of the students' experience.
By taking the time to regularly collect feedback and highlight to your students that it is being heard, you signal that providing feedback is a safe and valuable practice for them. This encourages them to continue to provide authentic responses, which itself provides the bedrock for a highly active student cohort.
It increases student engagement and participation
When students feel that their opinions matter and can make a difference, they become more engaged and motivated in their learning (Toshalis & Nakkula, 2012).
When they feel appreciated and heard, students become more enthusiastic, active citizens within their school. They’re more likely to speak up, and to step into roles of leadership, thus positively contributing to school culture.
With a reinforced understanding that their voice and thoughts matter, students begin to connect their feedback to a broader school culture and ethos. This leads to changes and improvements beyond the walls of their classroom.
It enriches both the teaching AND learning experience
The best learning experiences are as specific to the student cohort as possible, which is why we know student feedback is so important to an enriched culture of learning.
Making changes to teaching based on the feedback tends to improve teaching methods, and to bring out the best in our teachers. It’s extremely rewarding to have a cohort of students that are invested in their learning as a result of this, which we also see motivate teachers to further contribute to a positive school culture.
A positive school culture is one of the most important elements for the success of a school and its key stakeholders.
Obtaining and leveraging student feedback is an impactful and empowering approach of driving a positive school culture. Over time, students understand that when their teachers are checking-in with them regularly and utilizing their feedback, they're telling them they care about their experience at the school. We see this manifest itself in increased participation in class and in the wider school community, as students sharing theirvoice and acting with agency is normalized.
Is student feedback being used to support a strong and positive culture at your school?
Bridwell-Mitchell, E. (unknown). Retrieved from https://www.theeducatoronline.com/he/archived/what-makes-a-good-school-culture/252755 on 11th February 2022.
Heck, R.H., and G.A. Marcoulides. 1996. School culture and performance: Testing the invariance of an organizational model. School Effectiveness and School Improvement 7: 76–95.
Maslowski, R. 2001. School culture and school performance: An explorative study into the organizational culture of secondary schools and their effects. Twente: University of Twente Press.
Toshalis, E. and Naku, M.J. (2012). Motivation, engagement and student voice. Retrieved from: https://www.howyouthlearn.org/pdf/Motivation%20Engagement%20Student%20Voice_0.pdf on February 11th 2022.
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Student feedback done the right way is focused, asked in the moment, and concerned with uncovering how you can better support your students.