Updated: April 21, 2024

Screen shot of a group of students and teachers from Petrides school in a group discussion.

I remember our son Alex coming home from school and saying, “Everything I am learning in school I can learn on YouTube, and it would be way more interesting!” My heart sank because I knew how much Alex liked to learn. He loved to work on projects, loved to surf and he loved art. He would sit in class all day and listen to lectures and then…be tested on the lectures. Alex saw school as a factory, a place where you listened to information and regurgitate it on a test at the end of the unit. What would school be like if Alex had a voice?

Did you know that:

  • 56% of students feel like they don’t have a voice in decision making at school
  • 54% of students don’t feel like their teachers don’t care
  • 52% believe that teachers are willing to learn from students
  • 67% see themselves as leaders
  • 45% believe that they are valued member of their school community

These statistics cited in Student Voice: The Instrument of Change by Quaglia and Corso (2014) show the urgency in giving all learners a voice. The Michael J Petrides K-12 Public School in Staten Island, NY decided to make a dent in these national statistics through their Impact Team inspired practice – Student-Led Instructional Rounds.

Petrides has been on a 5-year journey to strengthen student ownership and agency through deep implementation (Donohoo & Katz, 2019) of the formative assessment process:

  • co-constructing learning intentions and success criteria with students
  • amplifying descriptive feedback
  • leveraging the self and peer assessment process
  • guiding students to set and monitor their goals
  • providing rich descriptive feedback from multiple sources.

The students at Petrides are aware of the overarching school goal, “If teacher teams engage students in using learning intentions and success criteria to guide instruction and assessment, then students will be fully aware of their learning goals and how to achieve them. Teachers will provide opportunities for student voice to be heard through self and peer assessment, social and emotional learning opportunities, and student-led instructional rounds to accelerate learning.”

Since this goal directly affects the students, it makes perfect sense that the students should be active participants in the feedback loop. Students walk through the classroom and are taught how to take low-inference notes while in each class. Then, they report out their observations to their teachers. They use the Impact Team Evidence, Analysis, Action Protocol to guide their discussion. With guidance from the principal, Joanne Buckheit, the students share their evidence, analyze the evidence and then are asked to brainstorm concrete actions to strengthen the work. The teachers then bring key actions to life so students feel validated and heard and more importantly know that their feedback is actually making impact.

Here are the Student-Led Instructional Rounds Steps to Success if you want to try this practice in your own school and/or system.

Step 1: Co-Construct Success Criteria for the Instructional Round

With guidance from the principal, they defined what evidence the students would be looking for. They determined that they could take notes on:

  • questioning and discussion (quality questions, partner talk, group discussions),
  • student engagement (group work, students teaching each other, students writing),
  • using assessment in instruction (learning goals and success criteria, self and peer assessment, feedback, goal setting).

These practices are all framed in the Danielson Framework for Effective Teaching.

Step 2: Co-Construct Norms for the Walk

Students co-constructed the norms with the principal and other teacher leaders. Here is an example of norms that were co-constructed.

  • No judgment – low inference notes
  • Notes on success criteria from step one only
  • Listen to understand
  • Interview students when possible: What are you learning? How do you know you will be successful? Why are you learning it? What do you do when you are stuck?

Students and a teacher from Petrides school in New York stand and discuss in a circle.

Step 3: Gather Evidence

Students walked the classroom guided by school leaders. They carried clipboards and recorded low inference notes based on criteria framed in step one. When they had opportunities – they interviewed students and recorded the responses.

Step 4: Share and Analyze Evidence

During this stage, the students share and analyze the evidence. The Impact Team (PLC) fishbowls during the conversation and takes notes on the feedback given. A teacher records the feedback using a document camera on the EAA Evidence Walk Template. After sharing the evidence, they analyze the evidence with guidance from school leadership. Here are some things to consider during the analysis step.

  • Answers the question “So What?”
  • What does this evidence mean for student learning?
  • Refrain from labeling or judgment
  • Generate more questions or wonderings

Step 5: Brainstorm Collective Actions

During this step, the students brainstorm a list of things to make the school goal even stronger. Here are some questions to guide students in coming up with collective actions.

  • If you had three wishes to increase student ownership what would they be?
  • What could we do to strengthen our practice?
  • What should we continue doing?

When the round concludes teachers collaborate and work through the feedback to determine next steps. They put the actions in place by communicating with the students their plan. These actions become the next focus for the next student-led instructional round.

In the end, when students’ voices are heard and students engage in meaningful dialogue about school improvement goals that directly affect them, then they can be active partners with school leadership and teachers in the mission of expanding student ownership and agency.

How can your school invite students to give feedback about your instructional focus? Please share.

Learn more about advancing learner agency with Leading Impact Teams 2.0, our second edition of the best selling book, Leading Impact Teams: Building a Culture of Efficacy. Continue this learner-centered journey and learn more about culturally responsive and sustaining approaches to assessment in one of our latest books, Amplify Learner Voice through Culturally Responsive Assessment.