PSCS Life – Student Feedback

(*This is the first post in a series of three posts where I will share

the feedback I have been getting from students, families, and staff.)

What Amy does well is:

Being a significant presence but not being intrusive.”

-PSCS student feedback on my performance December 2018

I cannot imagine my work without feedback. Whether it’s to let me know I am on the right track, or feedback that helps me understand there is work to be done, the Amy Hollinger mantra is, “all feedback is good feedback.”

Since starting here as Interim Executive Director, I have regularly asked our students to provide me feedback on a myriad of things: my leadership, classes I have taught, classes students would like to see offered etc.

Recently several PSCS students sent me a question, “What do you do with the feedback you ask us for?” This got me thinking that I ought to be a little more transparent—not only about what the actual feedback has been, but also on what I do with that information once I have it.

When I ask students for feedback, I am really trying to understand their PSCS experience and to identify areas we, as a staff, may need to pay more attention to. There are three ways I have used student feedback this year: to inform our program, to assess my performance, and to inform facilitation.

Using Feedback to Inform Program

Student voice is integral to our community. With our flexible schedule and ever-changing course offerings, we need to see what students think about our program. Traditionally, PSCS has gathered this information by relying on students reporting class requests and ideas to their Advisor. However, I thought a whole school survey would be a great opportunity for staff to see all student input in one place. Last November I sent out a survey entitled, “Term Two Classes,” so students could tell us what kinds of courses they would like to see available in the upcoming term.  I shared the data with our teaching staff before they pitched classes and made some suggestions of my own. See survey below:

*One thing to note, although some classes received lower rankings, that doesn’t mean we won’t offer them or that we, as adults in the community, don’t find them important. What student feedback tells us is when we offer classes like “Self Care” and “Computer Science” we may want to do a better job of explaining “why” we think these classes are important.

Using Feedback to Assess Performance

This past December, I asked students for feedback on me. I wanted to know what the students felt like I was doing well and what things they would like to see me to approach differently. I also wanted to see if my own assessments matched what students thought about my work here at PSCS (so far).

What students felt I was doing well:

  • Answering questions honestly and openly
  • Being honest and sharing when I make mistakes
  • Being present in our community
  • Engaging with students
  • Being direct and to the point
  • Gathering feedback, being open to feedback
  • Axolotls
  • Advocating for students—especially the play
  • Guiding teaching staff to some more academic classes that students want
  • Understanding a lot of perspectives
  • Kind, calm, nice
  • Observing and not changing things too fast
  • Teaching

What students want to see me do differently:

  • Teach more (especially flex classes)
  • Nothing
  • Explain more about how all school decisions are being made. Give more of the “why” behind things. Address the group more about things going on in the community.
  • Get more voices in the conversations (staff, students, parents)
  • Play more games with the community

What students want me to do that I am not currently doing:

  • Nothing
  • Rest of answers were all one-offs, ranging from “Listen to parents less” to “have recess time” to “don’t ban discord.”  

I used the information from this survey in several ways. First, I took on Community Hour facilitation. This seemed like a great way for me to clarify school wide decisions and explain the “why” to students. Second, I used this information to support a current, student-led class, called “PSCS Conversations.” (The original question about what I do with these surveys came from the students in this class.) Third, I used this information to plan and offer a multi-day class the following term aka me “teaching more.” Last, I used this information as a reflective tool to see if my self-assessment matched what students think about me.

Using Feedback for Facilitation

Students taking my classes quickly learn that I ask for feedback after each class. I use this end of class feedback at the beginning of our next class by sharing common themes or tensions, as well as how I used their feedback to plan. One example from my Fall Term class, How to Teach a Class at PSCS, was the feedback that I had asked students to do too much writing and that they needed a better framework in which to write. The next class day, I asked students for suggestions on how they’d prefer to produce work. Together, we came up with a combination of writing, verbal reporting, and visual representation.

I also ask for overall feedback at the end of each course. This allows me to know what did and did not work for students, as well as offer a chance for students to share ideas and suggestions. I use this information to plan for future classes.

To close, I am going to quote Daniel Pink author of the book Drive in which PSCS is mentioned, “When we make progress and get better at something, it is inherently motivating. In order for people to make progress, they have to get feedback and information on how they’re doing.” I really appreciate all the feedback from our students.

Next week’s blog: Common themes from family feedback.