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157. Structures for Gathering Student Experience Data

by Lindsay Lyons
April 2nd 2024
In today's solo episode as part of a new mini series focused on transforming the systems that uphold inequity in our s... More
Educational justice coach, Lindsay Lyons, and here on the Time for Teacher podcast, we learn how to inspire educational innovation for racial and gender justice design curricula grounded in student voice and build capacity for shared leadership. I'm a former teacher leader turned instructional coach. I'm striving to live a life full of learning, running, baking, traveling, and parenting because we can be rockstar educators and be full human beings if you're a principal assistant superintendent, curriculum director, instructional coach or teacher who enjoys nering out about core curriculum of students. I made this show for you. Here we go, everyone. Welcome to Time for Teacher podcast. This is episode 157 and I'm super excited because today we're kicking off a mini series of episodes that are focused on transforming the systems that uphold inequity in our schools. In this episode, specifically, we're going to explore the structures that enable us to meaningfully partner with students and families and educators, right, a multi stakeholder partnership on a regular basis.

We're grounding the conversation in a powerful theoretical model which directly addresses the common barriers to success specifically in our student voice endeavors. I love it. I'm excited for it. Let's get into it. All right. So how are we doing this thing where we're prioritizing student voice, family voice, we're prioritizing gathering experiential data or street data as Jamila Dugan and Shane Sappier call it, I specifically am focusing on students today, but I do want us to keep in mind, family voice, educator, voice, all the stakeholder voices that are important because I think a lot of this applies. But the model we're specifically using it focused on Children and youth voice. So what are the structures? Right? And before we actually even get into that, let's talk about why the structures are needed in the art of a gathering. Pria Parker's book, she writes of how adaptive leadership, Professor Ron Heet, who have quote a lot of the B and podcast start this class without speaking for five minutes. And her point here is that when we step back from leadership roles and we don't facilitate at all, we're actually not democratizing the space.

We may think that we're giving up leadership and the leadership disappears. Everything is democratic. But instead, what we're doing is we're handing control role without that facilitation, we're handing control to someone else in the space. Perhaps that's the loudest person, the most confident person or the most extroverted person. She gives a bunch of other examples in her book of like parties where the host is not facilitating and you get stuck with a drunk uncle or something that's like someone you're really not thrilled to be talking to for two hours. So there are things that we think like we're stepping back, we're democratizing. Awesome. And there are things that happen in that space of un facilitation or lack of structure, right? What she actually says is we can democratize the space with the skilled facilitation when we take ownership of that facilitator role. And we skillfully facilitate the conversation and the opportunities for voice and sharing, right? When we step back from our intentional facilitator role, we're actually also likely to create confusion and anxiety for in her words, the participants of our gathering, right? With our students, we often create confusion and anxiety.

When we say, OK, we want to hear from you. Go no boundaries. We I've done this so many times with projects, I'm like, let's co create the project. What kind of project do you wanna do? Nothing's off the table? Go tell me what you want. And there's just like crickets and confusion and stress of like not coming up with the right answer all the things right that we learn as students is like we do school this particular way. And now after years of that training, we ask students to open up and share with us and there's a lot necessary to create a foundation where students are actually able to do that well, right. So many students will respond to an open invitation to share their ideas and experiences with us, with understandable skepticism, a lack of trust, perhaps a lack of, are you even going to take me or an idea of, are you even going to take me seriously? They might be confused and anxious as I said, and consequently, you might just get zero student responses after you're like, hey, everyone, tell me what you think, just crickets, right?

And so we need to develop trust, of course, in relationships with students and families and all stakeholders before real authentic sharing, that is honest and vulnerable will actually happen. But then we also need the structures, right? The facilitation for how and when we can listen to folks to have students, for example, share their experiences. So the theoretical framework that this episode is situated in comes from Laura Lundy, who is a student voice scholar, she developed what is known as the Lundy model of participation. So there is uh the convention on the rights of the child which has been upheld by almost every country in the world. The United States has not ratified this which is bonkers. But this idea of youth voice and participation in things that affect them is widely recognized as a way for Children and schools are a wonderful place for us to be able to facilitate this and bring it to life. She recognizes that there are many barriers, two students authentically sharing and participating in the way that we dream up in the way that we think of when we think of authentic meaningful student voice, right?

And so she says this model of participation actually includes four features that are required to overcome these barriers and enable students to authentically share their ideas. And so here they are first, space, Children must be given safe, perceived safety, right? They have to perceive the space as safe. It's not something that we dictate, right? But they perceive the space as safe, inclusive opportunities to form and express their view. So we need many opportunities, right? Plural, it's not one opportunity, plural, many opportunities. They need to have the students experience safety in those spaces and they perceive that they are safe to share psychologically physically that they are inclusive of all voices, particularly students who have historically been marginalized or excluded from these types of conversations. And that it's not just space to express their view, but also a space to form it. When you ask students who haven't been asked before, what do you think? There's often a long lull, a long silence, there's a lot of questions they have to work through.

I know just as an adult, there's a lot of times where someone asks me what I think about something, even if it's what do you want for dinner. And I literally have to stop and think for multiple minutes because I'm I'm not sure I have to have the space to think about it to form my ideas. And if I'm being asked about something or a student is being asked about something that they haven't had real connections with or experiences with or haven't even thought about certain topics, right? We need to allow them to have more experiences with that topic, to grapple with it, right? To form their view and, and express their view. So that's one that's space. The second piece is voice. Children must be facilitated to express their views. Again, we have this facilitation idea. This is an active thing. We enable the the voice through thoughtful participation in the creation of these opportunities for students to express their view. Again, I would say multiple opportunities. She uses a plural here. The third component is very adult centered. I think maybe also youth centered in terms of like youth also need to provide an audience.

But it's it's audience is the third one. And the idea here is that the view the child is sharing must be listened to. So students must be listened to and perceive that they are being listened to authentically meaningfully like we care what you say. We are not on our phones, we are not rolling our eyes, we are not um not taking you seriously because you're a child and we're adults or whatever it is, right? But the view must actually be listened to. So we create the space, the opportunity, we facilitate the voice, the sharing, we have the audience, we're actually listening. And the fourth one is influence, the Children have to have real influence. So here is described as the view must be acted upon as appropriate, right? So if it makes sense to act on it, if there's no real reason, we shouldn't, we should act, we should act, they should have real influence. I love this model. So let's actually use this model to go into the structures that would provide these students with each of these features at a school level.

Because of course, I think you can do this in classrooms. It might even be easier sometimes in classrooms. Um diff different, I should say maybe not easier across the board but different. Um and perhaps easier in the sense of you have a smaller community. So you have more opportunities to build trust in one on one relationships, teacher to student and student to student um in a larger school with a lot more um stakeholders, stakeholder types, right? We have families, we have educators, we have students, we have just a higher number of everybody. It might be harder to build that kind of trusting relationship. But here we're thinking about a school level and of course, let your mind wander to how this applies to the school as well. I'm sorry, the classroom as well. All right. So first, let's dive into spaces. So the first thing we want to do is create spaces. So in addition to creating the relationships, of course, that are necessary to make sharing happen. We want to design our school schedules to provide students with as many opportunities as possible to share their ideas. So from cot constructing curricula, again, that's a classroom example to co creating school policy and everything in between.

Here are some examples of ideas that you can use to create these spaces. And of course, this is not exhaustive, this is just like what's in my brain, you could do regular learning walks to get a pulse of what's happening in the school. And of course, that leads to deciding on your next action steps. Now, the kicker here is that we do these with students, right? So we're scheduling them, we're scheduling them in alignment with when students can do them with us. We are inviting students to share their experiences as we're going into the different classrooms, student voices centered, we could level up our student government. So it frustrates me to no end particularly as a high school and college student who was um in student government myself, that student government is seen as an often limited to in terms of influence planning social events. It is so much more than prom and the class trip. And what kind of like fun things are we doing? Encourage the student government and and of course, I think train and support and help them build the skills for advocating for and co creating policy change in their schools and also in the larger community, right?

Truly level up their leadership and give them those opportunities change the narrative of what student government can be and is in your community. Another idea include students on all school and district committees that includes things like curriculum assessment discipline committees. These are not just limited to some kind of fluffy student experience committee that is, you know, just after school clubs or sports or whatever. Another idea create in class and after school opportunities for participatory action research and civic projects. So again, you'll see some of these do transcend into the classroom as well. But I think if you have this larger system where you as the leader are connecting classroom teachers and after school teachers providers, whatever with folks who can help facilitate this work with students versus a toy action research, they're training students and how to do this. They're creating the space for students to go do this research and kind of report to or present to an authentic audience at the end for meaningful change. Um Local college students, I think are a great source of partnership in this work.

They're often really into it, right? They're, they're learning about participatory action research in their courses and they're excited to help others learn as well. It's great for them and internalizing the material, but it's also great for students to see other youth, although slightly older youth of course, um doing this um right. Uh another option is to make advisory period if you have advisory period or something similar like a concrete space for students to share their experiences, which it often is, but also to from those experiences when appropriate, when you know, acknowledged by students as something that they want action taken on that these experiential share outs are being used to recommend policy and practice changes, right? We're turning them into advocacy. So we're not just, oh this was a really tough part of my day because of this school structure. But like what does that school structure have to exist? And what can we say to have this changed? Another option is to develop family and educator together teams or fet teams that meet regularly in alignment with Ari Giron Kessler's advice, which was actually shared in a few episodes, two episodes back episode 155.

So you can get that at Lindsay, Beth lions.com/blog/one 55. So these are just some ideas, but these are all kind of structured spaces that have a regular time and place and opportunity. There's a structure there that makes it sustainable. There are multiple opportunities on a regular basis in all of these different types of spaces and structures of spaces for students to share their experience and advocate for themselves, having meaningful influence in those spaces. Now, the next piece, when we think about that with space, her number one principle and then the number two is voice. So we need to facilitate voices. We can use discussion and listening protocols. My favorite, of course, as I always say is Circle protocol and use them in all levels of school and district life. So of course, you can use them in classrooms, but you can also use them in school committees in after school clubs. You can have students running after school clubs, you can train students how to do these circles and and facilitate themselves. Um do it in advisory. I think advisory is a great place for Circle Family nights.

You know, the the fet teams that you're creating potentially with families and educators together staff meetings, right? Model that one learning model for all model, how we do this as a staff, this is how we interact and now go do this with your students, right? This is just how we are in our community, of course, as part of Circle or any sort of discussion protocol core, your community discussion agreements, use them regularly, refer to them regularly, hold everyone accountable to them regularly and really normalize this as this is how we are in community and deeply listening to one another. The third piece is audience. So we need to gather an attentive audience. So if anyone particularly adults struggle to do this, this is where I think the adaptive work is critical. So as a leader, what I'm thinking is OK, I think a lot of folks, a lot of educators and and leaders in our space are gonna be like, yeah, I wanna listen to students. So I'm just gonna be attentive. You just need the reminder that like this is part of student voice and meaningful voice is there is an attentive audience. It's part of this framework. I'm gonna listen, I'm gonna put my phone away.

Cool. If there are some who are like, I am feeling the eye rolling, I am not taking this seriously. That's where the adaptive work has to be done. And as a leader, you want to step up and do it there, right? So we wanna invite those folks to share what are the challenges coming up for you? Let's deeply interrogate those beliefs that may be holding you back from partnering with students sometimes just literally inviting the adults to share their thoughts, experiences, fears, that's enough to build trust that listening is what we do in this community, right? You will be listened, it's not unidirectional. You don't just have to listen to students, right? Students are listening to you all the time. We may not feel like that. Um But the leaders and your peers are also listening like that's what we want to stand for. That's what we want to do here, right? And so in feeling valued and cared for by being listened to this may give those folks the opportunity and the capacity really, right? You're feeling like your cup is filled up. I now have the capacity to do the same for others. I was in a group once that uh uh participant names a beautiful metaphor of having like a rope or a string day, right?

Where a string day is like, I'm hanging out by a thread like you cannot put more on my plate. And a rope day is like, yes, lay it on me. I am here for you. I can deeply listen and empathize and do all the things, right? So we want to equip our teacher and any adults in the space that might be inattentive in the audience of student voice. We want to equip them with the capacity to do these things for students. So let's give it to them first and let's get them to have a bunch of rope days, right? I think this has certainly been true even for myself, I talk a lot about student voice but in in relationships for sure, like everyone wants to be valued and listened to and sometimes if the other person can be the person to value and listen and hear me, then I'm like, oh yeah, I got you like I can do this back, right? I just, I am feeling like my cup is not filled up yet. I need it filled up and then I can do it right. Ideally, we can just be ready all the time. In reality, we're real people. And I, I think this may just be something that helps us um to do this work. OK. Fourth thing influence. So we partner for influence here.

So we in in line with data Mitra student voice pyramid, which I've talked about before on the podcast and in the blog, we wanna make sure that we are partnering, right? And then ultimately, students are leading but through the support and structures of the school, right, we've done the the kind of middle of the pyramid work where we have come together and use adult partnership teams. And I genuinely think like this is where the transformation happens um and enable students to kind of take on their own projects because we've done the work, we've built the community, we have built the sense of partnership. So what does that look like? Invite students to attend relevant meetings or discussions about their proposal? So if they're like, hey, there's this cool idea. I have you invite them in and say, OK, that actually works well with this committee. So come on over, we're gonna talk more about it there. You can work collaboratively with us to make it actually happen. And if they can't or they decide, I don't want to do that, that's fine. Make sure that you are the person or someone is the person who's bringing it to the appropriate committees and you commit to that student to respond to their suggestion.

So each suggestion that you get from each student, right, I'm going to respond to you by a specific date and even if they don't even come up with a proposal, right? They're not saying this should be changed in this way, but they're just voicing a concern like we hear your concern, we're gonna talk about it at this meeting and therefore I can share out the next steps or things that questions that maybe came up for you so that you can kind of help us and and think through it and think about next steps, right? Whatever by this specific date. So just commit to that specific response date. So you can kind of circle back so they know where it's going. And you know, if it's not possible to implement the proposal, sometimes it's just not literally explain why to the students. So you'll remember maybe in Lundy's uh model that she says under influence rate, it's it's not that we always take action, we take action as appropriate. And so sometimes it's not appropriate, it's not possible, but we need to explain the why we need to circle back and say like, hey, we looked at this from these different lenses, like unless we're missing something, it's just not either relevant right now. It's not in alignment with our values.

Perhaps we don't have the financial resources and you can invite students to brainstorm additional ideas. So you're not just saying end of discussion, we're not doing this unless it violates your values in some way. And then we're, we're talking about that, of course, but invite students to brainstorm additional ideas of how we might address the underlying issue, right? Ok. So really surface level example, I, I don't think this is like a big thing. I think this is used usually as like, what is actually what is actually like a really fluffy example to your voice, but I'm using it now just because I can't think of anything else off the top of my head. If students are like, hey, the, we should have pizza every day at the, in the cafeteria, right? Ok. Well, pizza every day might not actually be nutritious and in alignment with our values we want what's best for the health of the whole child. Right. So we can't do pizza every day. However, if you're feeling like there are not a lot of good food options in the cafeteria, like I will walk you through. Um and the committee that, that designs that menu every week, we can walk you through. So some of like the budgetary constrictions or whatever we can brainstorm other options together. Um Perhaps you can find like a different supplier for us.

We can look at what schools have really great lunches and we can kind of do some of the digging in the research to try to think about how do we make lunch better because maybe it's not actually pizza that you want every day. Maybe it's just like you want delicious food. And so far like pizza is all that we've really done well. Right. And so I think bringing students in identifying the underlying cause and partnering with them to figure out, OK, what are the options to move forward? Um And, and showing them the work that goes on behind it, we have to research all this stuff like pitch in and help if you'd like, if that's really a passion for you, like we're welcoming the ideas. Um But we're just kind of stuck here and so maybe you can bring a new lens or bring a new idea, maybe you're connected to students at other schools who know how to do it differently and you can kind of bring that to us. OK. So those are our four kind of components of her framework. As a final tip, you don't need to implement a ton of structures tomorrow. And you know, this feels like this big thing. It's great to have all the things, all the structures. What I really am hoping that you take away from this episode is that Lundy's four principles are in your mind as you engage with students and families really and ask them to share their ideas and experiences with you.

So when you make that ask, keep the barriers in mind, keep the principles in mind and just commit to recognizing them, considering them, committing to building up the structures and practices that are gonna enable those four components and to help you implement at least one structure for ample amplifying authentic student voice in your community. You can grab by setting up structures of shared leadership resource for free at Lindsay, Beth lions.com/blog/one 57. Until next time. If you like this episode, I bet you'll be just as jazz as I am about my coaching program for increasing student led discussions in your school, Shane Sapir and Jamila Dugan. Talk about a pedagogy of student voice in their book Street Data. They say students should be talking for 75% of class time. Do students in your school talk for 75% of each class period. I would love for you to walk into any classroom in your community and see this in action. If you're smiling to yourself as you listen right now, grab 20 minutes on my calendar to brainstorm. How I can help you make this big dream a reality. I'll help you build a comprehensive plan from full day trainings and discussion protocols like circle and Socratic seminar to follow up classroom visits where I can plan witness and debrief discussion based lessons with your teachers.

Sign up for a nerdy no strings attached to brainstorm. Call at Lindsay, Beth lions.com/contact. Until next time leaders think big act brave and be your best self. This podcast is a proud member of the Teach Better Podcast Network better today, better tomorrow and the podcast to get you there. Explore more podcasts at teach better.com/podcasts and we'll see you at the next episode

157. Structures for Gathering Student Experience Data
157. Structures for Gathering Student Experience Data
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