Is your school making decisions based on meeting school and staff needs or based on meeting student needs? What’s the difference, and does it matter? The long and short of it is, there is a difference, and in my opinion, it does matter.
When reflecting on my career, I recall sitting through many discussions, ranging from what curriculum framework (IPC, IB, Cambridge …) the school should follow in the aim of increasing its student numbers, what type of technology parents would like to see in classrooms or technology teachers would like to have, what assessments should be used to communicate student achievement to the community, what learning resources the school needs based on staff wish lists, etc., but in all of these discussions, not once did I hear a question related to what the students themselves needed. Were wrong decisions made? Not necessarily. The curriculum frameworks chosen got the job done; the technology added to classrooms presented certain benefits for learners; assessments allowed teachers to evaluate student learning, and resources were required to teach lessons effectively, etc. But I sometimes wonder if the same decisions would have been made had the questions not been “What does the school need?” or “What does the staff need?” but rather, “What do the learners at our school need?” Had that been the case, would interactive whiteboards have been added to all the classrooms at a particular school I worked at? Maybe not. Perhaps if the question had been phrased differently, it would have been decided that for the benefit of the learners increasing the number of iPads or laptops in each classroom was the better option.
Back to question of, does it matter whether a school is basing its decisions on meeting student needs first? I believe it does. Too often learner needs are being pushed aside and replaced with school and staff wants, and although perhaps not detrimental, these decisions do have an impact on student learning in the long run. So, the next time your staff is meeting to decide on assessments that should be used, required resources, etc., try asking, “What do the learners at our school need?” and see where the discussion goes!
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