Schools are awash in data and principals and their staff are expected to use that data to guide improvements. Recently I was reading some materials from NASSP and was reconnected to the idea of a Student Shadow Study.
A shadow study is a different way of gathering information about how students experience your school. They involve selecting students at random and “shadowing” them throughout their day. The process, originally developed by NASSP, charts what students are experiencing every 5 minutes or so. This allows the observer to chart the ebb and flow of activities during the day. The emphasis is on what the student experience and it provides interesting insights into your school’s program.
Of course students quickly figure out that something is going on. So the best approach is to talk with the student you’re shadowing and assure them that you are not gathering information about them to share with the office. At the end of the day, spend some time with the student. Ask him or her about the day and about his or her typical experiences. Provide time for the student to tell you about their school.
Typically, several students are “shadowed” on the same day. The goal is to put together a collection of snapshots that can help design a portrait of your school from the student’s perspective. The data can then be used to complement other data and inform your school improvement efforts.I’d enjoy hearing form you about other ways you gather data directly from students about their experience in your school.