Last night I published a post about our Cultural Ambassadors and how this process gives our students an opportunity to show leadership through recognising and promoting their culture and language. I promised that I would also blog about another student leadership initiative, our Student Inquiry Team.
The Student Inquiry Team at Our Place
What is it:
Our Student Inquiry Team is a group of students who use their abilities to 'think outside the box' to work on how our school wide Inquiry Process and our school Values can be improved from a students perspective, to make teaching and learning at our place better.
How did it come about:
Several years ago we needed to revamp our school wide Inquiry Learning process from one that was overly academic, complicated and hard for students to articulate, to one that students could understand and had ownership of. At the same time, our newly developed Improvement teams were being implemented, and the Inquiry process was the first task on the Curriculum Improvement Teams list. We realised we needed student voice as part of that self review, and I offered to run a student led group that would look at our Inquiry and translate it into 'kids speak'.
How are students selected:
In the first year, students were suggested from the teaching team. Initially we just had mostly year 6 students with three year 5. In the second year, once the three left over students and I realised that we only had a small group left, I asked the group how we might address this loss of 'institutionalised knowledge' for next time. From this, the system of selection was born.
The three original and remaining students then decided that succession planning was important, and I left them in charge of how they would select the new group of students to assist. They felt that they needed some smart younger students, two from year 4 and one from year 3. They also decided that they would need ten in the group in total, with two new from year 5 and 6. They then went and introduced themselves to all the classrooms with year 3 to 6 students, and invited them to apply for a position on the Inquiry team. They made up application forms, and left them for anyone who was interested. They then gave them a deadline for when to get their applications in.
Once the applications came in, they went through each application, and shortlisted their preferred candidates. They consulted with the teachers from the senior school, and from there shortlisted again until they had students they were happy would meet the criteria. They then set up a series of interview questions and they interviewed each shortlisted candidate. After the candidates were interviewed they debated each applicant on their merits, and asked me for my impression.
Once they decided who should be in the team, they informed the successful and unsuccessful applicants. All this happened in my office with me as an interested observer. It was true student agency at work. This is now the process that the Student Inquiry Team follows to select their new members each year.
What do they do:
In the first year, the students took our Bring It, Handle It, Process It and Share It model and determined what it would look like in 'kids speak', and created the graphics for each part of the process. Their designs were shared with the school and the favourite ones were used by a graphic artist to be the final design. They chose to use our school house 'birds' to represent each part of the process.
This last year they took our school Values and linked them to the Inquiry Model, and created the graphics for this. In addition they looked at how Inquiry fits across the school curriculum. During a community consultation evening they shared their work with parents and asked the parents what focus area would they like the group to work on next, and what areas of Inquiry they wanted students to follow at our school.
At regular intervals they feed their work into what the teachers are doing in the Curriculum Improvement Team. It is at this point that their ideas are fused in collaboration with the teaching team.
Why do we have them:
The Student Inquiry team is an important element in our school and it helps us get a students perspective in our curriculum. They are, after all, the ones that are at the heart of learning. It is true student agency at work.
It is also the part of my week that gives me great joy and they are my sanity savers. There is nothing more grounding than working with students, and they remind me of why I do what what do. Especially on one of 'those' days.
Principals need that kind of reality check.
Finally, our Student Inquiry Group is a student leadership process that puts them into the drivers seat, and it evolves as the needs of the school change and the individual strengths and dynamics of the group changes.