YouthTruth: Engaging Staff and Students in Gathering and Processing Feedback

“You don’t need lots of gimmicks. All I need to know is that you are going to listen and take my feedback seriously.”

I heard this time and time again when we were talking to students early in the development of  YouthTruth. Students had become skeptical about the value of providing input because they were continually taking time-consuming surveys and never seeing the results of their feedback. What a wasted opportunity.

In my last post, I talked about the role that student feedback could and should play in helping shape education reform. However, it is not enough to simply ask students questions about what’s working and what isn’t. For this kind of input to motivate change:

  • The perspectives coming in from students have to be honest and critical
  • Participants have to be able to make sense of the data, which we think is best done when it is comparative in nature, presented back in digestable formats, and accompanied by focused time for reflection and action planning

Given this, with YouthTruth, we strive to actively engage students and staff both before and after the survey.

To ensure students take the survey seriously, we communicate to them upfront that they will see the results of their feedback. Participating schools are required to share their YouthTruth results with students before the end of the school year. Sharing results with students demonstrates school leaders’ commitment to improving the student experience, and it inspires students to identify what they can do to make their school better. The video below highlights two schools’ experience with sharing data back with students.

YouthTruth also actively partners with school leaders, network, and foundation leaders to help them respond to their data. One of the ways we do this is that we bring schools from common networks together in regional convenings to compare their results, identify best practices, and brainstorm strategies for sharing data back with their school community. This is a rare opportunity for over-burdened school staff to get input from their peers on strategies for improving their school and ideas about tangible action steps they can implement once they get back to campus. Check out the video below for an example of a YouthTruth regional convening.

We believe that this engagement process with both staff and students complements the comparative data we provide — and is part of what has helped YouthTruth lead to demonstrated improvements and change in participating schools.

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