Learning from students

I believe that a big part of teaching as discovery is learning from our students. Here and there I have reminded teachers to ask their students what they like and do not like about a particular activity, text of classroom rule. I urge teachers to have students write with no names.


But in addition to asking about activities I think we can learn when we ask them about the physical features of their classrooms.

I visited a high school in Japan some months ago and the principal asked the teacher I had visited what I had thought of the school. After commenting on the students, who were very friendly to me as I wandered through the halls, I said I thought the walls were a bit drab.

The principal asked the teacher to ask the students what they thought of the walls and they said “colorless, gray, unexciting,” and other similar words. The students said they would like each classroom painted a different color and when they walked through the halls they would move from the outer wall of one classroom that was red to another that was green, blue, and yellow.

The principal asked the teacher to take some students to a paint store and select the colors they wanted on the condition that they would do the painting together. The students were thrilled and now the classrooms and hallways are very colorful and I might add cheerful.


In another school I visited the chairs had metal legs and the floor was cement. When the students moved their chairs the metal moving on the cement was almost painful to hear.

When the teacher asked for suggestions about how to decrease the sound  a few pointed out that there was a tennis school nearby and maybe they could ask if the person in charge of the school would give old used balls to the students rather than throwing them away. Why? Well the students said if they  cut them in half or made a hole in them and put one on each of the four legs they sound would be eliminated. Well, from painful noise to silence meant that the teachers had students separate in pairs and groups much more than previously.  So the interaction in most classrooms changed dramatically be asked the students to suggest a way to decrease the sound of chairs scraping on cement.


I mentioned that I had mentioned the importance of asking students what they liked and did like and wanted more and less of incidentally. Richard L. Allwright has explored student suggestions in great detail so if you want to learn more check out his writing.

Enjoy, enjoy

3 Replies to “Learning from students”

    1. Dear Phil,

      Thanks for the comment and the news that you and Andy Boon talked about negotiated learning. Wonder if you showed some clips of the students talking or transcriptions of what they said and did. Always a delight to hear from you.

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