Featured Community Jul 11

Using student perspective to boost engagement

When educators capture and incorporate student input into their classrooms, students show up with more motivation and are more primed to succeed. This is according to a group of education experts who took part in the panel, “Trust is a Two-Way Street: Amplifying Student Voice to Help Improve Learning Outcomes,” at ISTELive 23 in Philadelphia. 

The panelists included Natalia Benjamin, Coordinator for Multilingual Learning for Rochester Public Schools; Christopher Chatmon, CEO of Kingmakers of Oakland; and Dave Hersh, CEO of Character Lab. Also joining them on the panel was Nathan Mirin, a recent high-school graduate and participant in Character Lab’s Internship Program, which allows students to directly contribute their voice to research about student well-being. 

Creating trust in the classroom starts by building teacher-student relationships, the panelists said. “Having a feeling of community in the classroom is important so that students feel safe and cared for, “ said Benjamin. “We are all social beings.”

Added Chatmon, “Getting to know who students are, creates the culture and conditions in the classroom so students know, ‘I see you.’ Then, you can go farther faster. They feel seen and understood.”

For student panelist Mirin, knowing that your voice matters has long-ranging effects. “The demonstration of interest from teachers is so important,” he shared. “If you can instill that self-confidence and know that people are listening to you, you’re going to do a lot better in life.”

The power of relationship building

However, as Character Lab’s Hersch noted, educators face daily challenges around having “transactional relationships” with their students due to the many pressures in the school day. What we’re actually talking about, he said, “is about how the relationship is the end in and of itself.”

Both Chatmon and Benjamin talked about how understanding each student as an individual brings joy to educators while also creating the ability to connect differently with the classroom content.

If I learn their dreams, I can be a resource for their success.”

Christopher Chatmon

CEO, Kingmakers of Oakland

As Chatmon shared, “When you get to know each child, you can connect content to their lived experience.” Similarly, Benjamin said that each student has a story that matters. “You can see their power of resilience and that’s when the magic happens. If I learn their dreams, I can be a resource for their success.”

Asking questions is just the start

When there’s a strong community in the classroom, there’s also greater opportunity to adjust instruction to better impact student outcomes. 

“How often do we allow students to give their feedback, and then adjust to know what is working or not working?,” Chatmon asked. “If you can create a space for social emotional [skill building], you can have academic rigor.”

Benjamin said that she appreciates the activities that Along provides, which offer opportunities for students to share back within the platform. This helps students feel important and then “we can take more risks when we learn.”

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