Design a Program

"I wonder if we can have a non-bullying world." (Grade 4/5 student)

If you are wondering how to create change in your school culture, or to address difficult issues then you might be interested in the inquiry tools and approaches that we used in developing this program.

Key questions:

What is it we would like to change? 

We started by considering the way that bullying was treated by parents and students in the school. In particular, the Principal was concerned about the way bullying was seen as something that had to be punished, rather than addressed in a restorative way, and how the term was often used improperly and in an inflammatory way.

How can we re-imagine the issues? 

We used two key inquiry tools. 

The integral quadrant approach helped to re-imagine what bullying was - for example, it could be seen as an unwanted and unsafe behaviour,  an unhealthy relationship dynamic, coming from a culture of meanness, due to poor social and emotional skills and likely to have deeper root causes in family or social dynamics or systems. This inquiry tool helped us to work out what we wanted to say YES to - positive relationships and positive school cultures - rather than just saying NO to something (bullying.) See Blog

The seven ways of inquiry tool (see below) enabled us to think about the views, values, and wisdom of our stakeholders. It helped to challenge assumptions and to be clear about what we valued from an education perspective. It helped us determine the issues in working with different stakeholders. See BlogWe decided to work with the children first, rather than parents and teachers. This was to:

  • develop an understanding about their lived experience of the phenomena; 
  • build from their concepts, concrete experiences and language;  
  • use the artefacts that they created to help parents understand the issues;
  • see them as early adopters that could influence others.

How can we build a program that is responsive to what is emerging?

There were two key approaches.  We used a participatory action research process incorporating listening to students, team teaching, reflective dialogue, collaborative planning, and triple loop reflection. Triple loop reflection not only enables reflection on how the task is going, but enables understanding of why things are happening, is open to what is emerging and keeps coming back to values. Students did things that were unexpected and through exploring these further we were able to uncover important learning.

"What are we noticing? What do we think it means? What can we try to test it out?"

Secondly, was ensuring there was enough space in our pedagogy to enable student voice and room to manoeuvre. This was not  just about trying to find out what was of concern to the students, but also allowing them to guide the program, and change the activities. By the teacher adopting a listening role with an open and curious mind, a shift could occur where learning is improvised and students and teacher are able to make offers.

What are we valuing here?

Following the program we used evaluative tools such as focus groups and questionnaires for the students.  

By using appreciative inquiry we could ask what is it that we value that we want to enhance?

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