We’ve explored a lot in the prior sections on the role of the site leader and engaging in proactive behaviors that lead to effective engagement, but what are the actual mechanisms that provide feedback into the shared decision-making process? There are a variety of ways that feedback can be assessed, from classroom walkthroughs to walking the school neighborhood, to formal surveys and structures like listening circles, focus groups, or community forums to collect information. Let’s consider several of the formal mechanisms commonly used to collect feedback in the school settings and explore ideas how these can be enhanced to more closely collect and lift the voice of your school community.
Surveys are a common tool used to collect feedback on a school initiative, idea, or event. When designing school surveys, consider the following:
- Who is speaking into the survey design? Who might you ask for additional eyes or support in crafting the language to make it meaningful and accessible to the school community (i.e. PTA members, teachers, SSC members)?
- How accessible is the survey? Have you considered the window of time that it will be open, and is the survey available in all languages that parents will need? For parents or guardians that may need additional support, how are they able to complete the survey (i.e. use of Braille or additional interpretation)?
- Do parents/guardians have the background information they need to give helpful feedback? For example, if requesting feedback on a new initiative that has been implemented (i.e. all students now receiving Universal Meals), how has the school community been provided with background information on this initiative?
Focus Groups & Community Forums
These feedback structures are often used to address a specific opportunity or challenge being faced in the school community. A focus group is a structured protocol where individuals have the opportunity to express their knowledge and experience on a given topic, and a community forum can be offered in a general format for the school community to ask questions of school administration or can also be a more targeted event where the community is able to share and ask questions about a more specific topic (i.e. new school leadership).
Think about these two structures in your district or charter. What do they look like currently? How frequently are focus groups conducted? Forums? How might you increase the frequency of these conversations moving forward?
It is critical that we understand that feedback and engagement are not “one and done” events. The use of feedback is a critical component in making community voice active and alive in the school community, and it has to be embedded regularly. Consider your current feedback loop or cycle: how does feedback impact school decisions and how is that information provided back to the community? Take the time to teach these practices to your team and staff. The ability of the collective group to engage in engagement practices and lift feedback is far more powerful than yours individually.