Responsibility = Response + Ability
“You can not feel responsible if you feel that there is nothing in your power to change.”
In the past we have already written about what non-participatory methods are. You can read more about it here. In this blog post, you will learn how we have used non-formal participatory methods for social climate research on a large scale in a Slovenian primary school.
In autumn we were approached by a Slovenian primary school that wanted to do something about its social climate. The headmistress of the school and her teachers are known for doing things out of the box and are one of the most advanced schools in terms of teaching methods.
One of our colleagues at Primera group who was leading a project moderated a meeting of the school development team. They discussed and thought and worked and at the end of the meeting they came to a very thoughtful insight. The ideas for improvement should not only come from them. This should be a joint effort between the pupils of the school and the pedagogical staff. So they prepared the following game plan.
All classes from the 7th, 8th and 9th grade* will participate in a large scale World Cafe combined with Appreciative Inquiry methods. About 3 classes per year, each class with an average of 20 students and two class teachers brings up to 198 people. They will discuss what is already good in their school and what can they do to make it even better. This is how we did it
We all gathered on D-Day in the big hall of the school where the headmistress gave her introduction speech. All pupils and teachers were introduced to why we are doing this today and a plan of what we will do in the next two hours.
Afterwards, all pupils went back to their classrooms together with a moderator and two of their class teachers. In the beginning we used a fast and fun social game that was supposed to break the ice. Then the moderator introduced himself and presented the etiquette for the workshop.
Etiquette was written on a poster and hung up somewhere in the classroom for everyone to see:
– We are all equal (no classic roles of teacher, student);
– Only one is speaking at a time, the others are listening;
– We encourage everyone to bring in their own opinions;
– We say as much as it still makes us feel good;
– We have no previous expectations of what should happen, so whatever happens is fine;
– We do not judge, criticize or mock what the other person said, even if it does not seem important to us;
– We ask additional questions to better understand the other person;
– We tell what we say, recognize the similarities of the different participants;
– Write down what you say, draw or keep it in some other way;
– We will summarize all our findings before we meet up again with everyone else in the hall, so that nothing of what an individual has said will continue;
– If someone says something confidential, we respect it and do not share it further.
It was also stressed that every person attending the school has the power to influence the general social climate of the school. And so today’s task will be to review the current situation together, see where there is room for improvement and what they propose.
The facilitator asked the pupils what feeling good means to them. After a short discussion about feelings of security, respect, equality and value, they sat down in groups (min. 3 persons, max. 5) and were given a blank flip-chart paper. They were asked:When do you feel good in school? Talk about the situations, cases and experiences. What happened then? Who did what and how did you react? During their conversation they had to write down everything they were discussing about. After 10 minutes they had to choose 3 examples/experiences that seemed the most powerful to them and write them on Post-it notes. Each group in the classroom then presented their 3 strongest examples and displayed them on posters prepared by the facilitator. They also grouped them according to the content of the Post-it.The following rounds were all the same, only the question of what they were thinking about was different.
What you would like more of?
What would you like less of?
And what of what already exists and is good, you would like to preserve?
..in order for you to feel good in school during class?
We made it easier for them by having templates of the question wrote down on the flip-chart template.
Here is an example how the template for second and third round looked like. Each group got their own.
What can pupils do for the sake of well-being?
What can teachers do for the sake of well-being?
All the pupils (and the two teachers) together looked trough the final selection of the Post-its. As a group they had to decide on the three most important suggestions what pupil scan do and three most important suggestions of what teachers can do, to improve the school climate. This was later presented to other classes and teachers in the big hall.
We all gathered in the big hall of the school. Inspired we have listened to the 9 representatives of each classrooms suggestions for the improvement of the social climate. The students and teachers were thanked by the project leader and promised all this will be taken into consideration during their preparation of new guidelines for the school.
It is really important that the pupils of the school and the pedagogical staff feel that the proposals they have presented will actually lead to some actions by the school officials. You cannot feel responsibility if you feel that there is nothing in your power to change anything. By preparing the improvement proposals themselves, their commitment to the final results of the project has increased and everyone feels involved in this project. It is not yet another meaningless rule that management has imposed on them to make them abide by.
The World Cafe that we used in this project can be used for different purposes. In this case we have used it on a large scale, but there are as many different uses as your imagination allows. It is suitable for young and older students. The questions they discussed could be linked to any other topic content. Such methods develop active learners; they allow users to facilitate learning through observation and feedback through open questions. The disadvantage of such methods is that you need more planning for such approaches to be effective. However, this is like any other thing you start learning. Once you have some of them ready, the preparation time is drastically reduced.
On our training Learner voice: engage students in participative and collaborative learning you will have the opportunity to learn and practice some of the methodologies like Circle, Open Space technology, World Cafe, Appreciative Inquiry, etc. You will also have the opportunity to learn and experience the power of storytelling.
Author: Brina Menart, is a psychologist and a student of integrative transaction analysis. She is also an idealist with a deep conviction that the world is beautiful and a realist who is ready to work to become so. In Group Primera she works as the head of international courses department and is a trainer in the Developing Emotional Intelligence course.