Listen to the students

Voices of Students

I’ve recently been reading a couple of books that have me thinking about innovation – both in terms of education, and in terms of the world as a whole. I’ve seen lots of different ways to define innovation, but the one that I think is the simplest to understand, and that I find myself going back to again and again is the one that George Couros shares in his book The Innovator’s Mindset – Innovation “is a way of thinking that creates something new and better.” Just because something is new, that doesn’t necessarily make it innovative. Handing our teachers the hot new tech tool won’t make that teacher innovative, but it is possible that the things they accomplish with that tool is innovative because it makes learning for our students better!

I think it’s also fair to say that all of us that work in education know that there are students that our current system of education is not working for. I bet anyone who teaches or works in a school is visualizing at least one student, if not several!

I recently heard a quote, I think it was on a podcast, but I was driving and I didn’t write it down at the time, but the concept stuck with me (to be honest, I can’t even tell you what podcast it was on, I tried to figure it out, but can’t recall!). The gist of what the speaker said is that an innovator looks for resistors. When they design a product, or are working on a redesign, they don’t want to talk to the people that the product works for. The feedback they get from those people is simply that they like it. Any true innovator wants a room full of the people who the product is not working for. If a designer can create a product that better meets the needs of those that the product is not working for, they are usually able to come up with a design that better meets the needs of all the potential customers.

So what does this have to do with education? That’s what you may be wondering… Think about the kid that the current education system is not working for. When we think about the concepts of Universal Design for Learning, creating a system that benefits our kids who struggle doesn’t take away from the learning of those who the system is currently working for. It typically leads to better learning opportunities for all our students.

The next time you get a chance, take a moment to listen to your students, especially the ones who are really struggling. What do they say they need to be more successful? I’m an adult and I struggle to sit for long periods of time – If I can’t do it, why should we expect our students to be able to?

Have you ever made changes because of feedback that students shared with you? How did it work out? Did it benefit more students than just the person you were trying to help? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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