August 9, 2019
Experts agree that heeding student voice can help out-of-school time programs engage students and help them grow academically, socially and emotionally. Sometimes, though, when the defining characteristic of your program seems to be noise, you might think you have more student voice than you can handle! How can you be sure you get it right? Here are some quick tips and Y4Y tools.
Engage Students in Program Decisions
Consider these questions. If you can’t answer “yes,” decide what actions you need to take:
- Are students represented on your program planning team?
- When your team starts to plan for the next program term, are all students included in a goal-setting activity or discussion?
- When your team reflects on results at the end of a program term, are students included, too?
Also consider this:
- Who thinks about program culture and climate, and sets norms for behavior — staff alone, or do students contribute?
Involving students in decisions helps give them a sense of ownership in program activities and supports engagement. Equally important, it equips young people with important skills like collaboration, communication, caring and reflection.
Do Formal and Informal Observations
The next time you’re surrounded by students in your program space, conduct an informal observation: Close your eyes and listen.
- Maybe you’ll hear comments like this: Wow! I get it! Cool! Can we do that again? I want to try that, too.
- Or, maybe you’ll hear this: Go away, I’m doing this. Get somebody else to hang with. Do I have to do that now?
This type of quick, informal check can tell you how things are going in the moment, so you can act immediately if students and colleagues need help to find their focus.
To capture information for designing an effective schedule and engaging activities, use a formal observation tool. Y4Y’s Observation Checklist will help you consider staff and student engagement, fidelity of implementation, and the status of the physical environment. The data you gather can help with intentional design of student activities and staff professional learning events.
Conduct Surveys and Use the Results
Want to know how students and families feel about your program, and how you can do things differently or better? Surveys offer a quick, anonymous way for audiences to tell you what they think. Here are some Y4Y survey tools you can use:
- Elementary Student Interest Survey and Secondary Student Interest Survey. These tools provide direct feedback and suggestions from students.
- Family Engagement Survey and Family Satisfaction Survey. Use these tools to get family perspectives on what students and adults want, and how family members perceive the value and climate of your program.