"Schools usually have one thing in common - they are institutions of today run on the principles of yesterday" (quoted in Blishen, 1969)
There are now lots of resources on the value of finding out what pupils actually think about aspects of their own learning. This is not a new activity of course: over 50 years ago, Edward Blishen collected a set of opinions from schoolchildren and used them as the basis of a ground-breaking book entitled The School that I'd Like. In it pupils from primary and secondary schools gave their views on the organisation of schools, the curriculum, and on their teachers.
There have been many subsequent efforts to gather pupil opinion, and it is fair to say that the most effective teachers are those who provide opportunities for pupils to express opinions, and then use those opinions constructively to shape their own practice. This is particularly so when examining aspects of learning and behaviour. In both of these areas, pupil views can be used positively by trainees and buy more experienced teachers to enable them to reflect on the way they interact with pupils. In a very real sense, therefore, pupils can be a ‘mirror in the classroom'.
Some important questions
1. What are the positives and negatives for a trainee teacher in seeking the views of pupils ?
2. How best might a trainee go about gathering pupil views?
3. Are there any ethical issues involved in doing this? From whom should the trainee seek permission?
4. What QTS standard(s) does this approach help inform?
5. Are there any good references, examples or video-clips to illustrate this way of working?