I created an environment with pens, paper and a pair of ears that led to the transformation of a mixed group of students from ‘meh!’ to ‘Hey, listen to my awesome idea… and by the way here is how we can implement it.’
Over the course of 2 terms I worked alongside staff and students at Knightswood Secondary School using graphic facilitation and person centred approaches.
From speed dating to Creativity in Education
My introduction to Dougie Brown, Depute Head, Knightswood Secondary School took place at a nerve-wracking, bizarrely fun networking sesison. Education Scotland hosted an event at which educators and creative catalysts were brought together to bring different thinking and approaches to education. In the interest of creativity it took place in a well known nightclub under the railway arches in Glasgow and it followed the format of speed dating, only it was networking – we were looking for partners in creativity! Take a look at the Education Scotland’s video.
Breaking down the brief
Dougie asked me to work with staff and students to create a plan to address universal health and well being. Learning in health and wellbeing ensures that children and young people develop the knowledge, understanding and skills which they need now and in the future.
Together we broke the purpose down into smaller goals:
- Create energy and engagement around Health and Wellbeing
- Reflect on skills, talents, resources and gifts within school
- Make school values and Guy Klaxton’s 4 Rs real
- Enable students and staff to confidently share their ideas, plans and dreams
- Equip students and staff with the skills to take a visual and person centred approach in the future (i.e. become self sufficient without the need for me!)
I would address all of the above by using a person centred approach and myself and team of graphic recorders would bring the meetings to life with visuals.
Mini conferences and mapping sessions
I set off on a journey of mini conferences and mapping sessions with staff and students. The groups that I worked were often perplexed by the fact that I wasn’t telling them anything just asking about themselves and their thoughts on things like school values and tutor time. I was listening to their responses and with my team of graphic recorders we sorted the data and recorded it all visually as it happened. I watched individuals in groups move from a nervous start to a more assured position where they could share their ideas about making Knightswood Secondary School a better place for themselves and their peers.
Finding the creativity
You could argue that the approach is creative because it uses art (I prefer to call them anything else but ‘art’, however, that’s a whole other blog post!) I would say yes, the visuals are a huge help to the process but there is more to it than that. For me the power of this approach and why I see it as creative is to do with people and time:
- Keeping the focus on the students and staff group, their thoughts and beliefs
- Creating an environment to empower others to explore and find their own answers
- Hearing each other, reflecting back and being intrigued
- Realising that what we want and who we are overlaps and intertwines with many different areas of school/work/life (delete as appropriate)
- Being comfortable with not knowing the answer
- Understanding that each and everyone of us is creative – there is no template.
Maintaining the creativity
My next step was to train up a number of staff, community partners and students. I spent time showing them the basics of graphic recording, we practiced together and had lots of fun graphic jamming ideas of how to draw things relating to their education.
I also spent a lot of time with students teaching them about facilitation, the art of asking questions, feeling comfortable with silences and not knowing all the answers. Together we facilitated each other’s plans to elevate Knightswood Secondary School, complete with graphic recorders and process facilitators. They had come so far and wrestled the difficulties of facilitation, generated a collection of plans for the future of of the school, grown in confidence and self belief. I hoped that when I left, the work would not stop and become a distant memory.
So what difference did it make?
I think a number of things have been achieved so far:
- Increased student and staff confidence as they realised what could be achieved by sharing power
- Uncovering a wealth of gifts and skills that were not being utilised
- Staff no longer wondering how to squeeze creativity into vision and values sessions
- More students sharing their ideas
- Better understanding and openness between staff, students and community partners
- Less concern about using the exact words to describe values and the 4 R’s and more action to get on with it!
- Staff and students skilled up in person centred planning tools, group facilitation and graphic recording
My work on this project with Knightswood Secondary is now finished but it is far from over.