Giving students real voice: Student Curriculum Hackers

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Lots of schools and teachers bang on about giving students a voice, but very few actually allow them to have one.  At Priory Geography, we have developed a strong culture of allowing young people to get involved in making decisions about school life, for example:

Throughout, we have always tried to engage other members of the local community, such as artists, mainly through the excellent and sadly missed Creative Partnerships project.  We’ve also always tried to ensure that the adults are the guides whilst the students drive and create.

Today saw the first session designed to build upon some of the lesson learned during the recent ground-breaking Kids Meet Pompey, put together by Jo Debens and work done by Alan Parkinson a year or so back. 

We wanted to get young people to hack our actual Schemes of Work and have a genuine input in to them.  The rest of this post outlines how the first two hour session went.  Firstly, we aim to hack three Schemes of Work, these being he first units in Year 7,8 and 9.  Today’s session was about setting some ground rules; creating some working conventions and defining the problem.  We decided that teachers were the professionals n terms of meeting the curriculum.

Step 1: Identify the features of a ‘perfect’ lesson

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Simple and straightforward brainstorming session here.  We asked students to identify the features of a perfect lesson / unit.  During this session (timed at 15 minutes with a countdown and everything), the young people could ask questions.  These identified restraints such as budget, aims and objectives of the curriculum.  In the image above, they then went on to identify possible barriers to achieving the perfection sought.

Step 2: Prioritise

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The students used a simple prioritisation tool.  Within the circle is the stuff we could easily do something about and outside the circle were the factors hat we either couldn’t control or we felt were outside the scope of the project.  The team felt that simple but effective changes would lead to the most impact.  As the group were working in two groups, each had to identify eight priorities that would inform the rest of the session (the actual hacking).

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Note the detail in the image above – no single word answers here! One of my favourites and one idea that I will enact is to get older students involved in co-planning and teaching students.  With teh overlap at GCSE this is a desirable outcome.

Step 3 – Hack the curriculum

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Using the conventions agreed upon, the students accessed our living schemes of work that are kept in Google Docs.  It was important to me that they inputted straight into the actual documents that the Priory Geography Team use.  I loved some of the ideas and it will take some time to unpick.  There were no real rules.

Step 4 – Evaluate

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We used mini white boards and my iPhone camera to capture want went well and what could be improved.  Hot seating a teacher is an idea that will be implemented for the next two hour session.

Some of the positives are below, as well as the Rights Respecting framework used to inform some of the ideas:

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Step 4 Actually listen to them and make changes.

The next step is to share and consider the inputs.  As the whole team can access and comment in Google Docs, I’ll be asking the Priory Geography teachers to take a look and consider what can actually be done.  Then I plan to meet with the Student Curriculum Hack group to let them know before the department’s annual Curriculum Development Day taking place on Saturday 13th July.

Look out for an update this time next week.

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