From its inception, one of the clear ReSchool commitments has involved putting students in the center of their learning experience. To us, that means giving learners opportunities to reflect on who they are as learners, to choose learning experiences that align with their interests and passions, and ultimately to equip them with the capacity to make choices about the next steps in their learning journey.
While few would argue with the value of this self-led approach to learning, the reality inside of most schools reveals systems and structures mostly aligned around adult needs, schedules and preferences. While a lot of work in the ed reform space has been done ‘to’ or ‘for’ students, usually with the best of intentions, we believe students are better served when things are done ‘with’ or ‘by’ them. Sooner or later they take the reigns anyway and their success with what happens next often hangs in the balance of the quality of our preparation for them to lead and direct their lives.
We have worked with partners in the past who interact with students directly but our most recent prototype just launched with one of our favorite partners, Prodigy Ventures. Grounded in our Learning Framework, we together determined that one of the best ways to build student agency and a sense of self was by teaching the apprentices how to give and receive feedback effectively and then using that feedback to engage in a goal setting/goal achieving process. These two skills, which we refer to in our learning framework as transferable competencies, will be critical skills irrespective of what path students pursue after their time at Prodigy.
So on a Thursday evening after a long day of work for several of these young people, we gathered around a large table together to unpack feedback. We talked about the places and people we get feedback from, what goes on in our brains when we get feedback that is hard to hear, why feedback is important for our own growth and learning, and the types of practices we can use in any context to calm our nervous system and enable the frontal cortex of our brain to respond appropriately when given feedback.
And then bravely, the students stepped into an exercise to practice reflecting on their own strengths and challenges. After this self-reflection, they practiced listening to their co-workers share their perception of that person’s strengths and challenges when it came to customer service and teamwork.
What unfolded next would have been awe-inspiring to any adult in a workplace environment where the lack of effective feedback mechanisms produces organizational cultures that become passive-aggressive, ineffective, and sometimes completely dysfunctional.
The feedback was delivered with enormous kindness yet candor. A quiet calm overtook the group as each listened with intention and purpose, shared thoughtfully their observations, and received the feedback in a gracious way. I couldn’t help but reflect on how different our adult organizations would be if we were able to practice what these students demonstrated in less than 90 minutes together.
Next, the students will have an opportunity to combine this feedback with a personal strengths assessment and a mini-360 review process. Taken together with the feedback from their co-workers, this feedback and self-knowledge will become the foundation for them to set a short term and long term learning goal. Stay tuned!