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Woman Helping Students

Understanding Students Can Enhance Education

by Blake Montgomery


Article excerpt

An Exercise in Empathy: When Principals Shadow Students

Torres and I sat in Anderson’s class as a part of the Shadow a Student Challenge, an initiative from IDEO, the Stanford d.School and the Hewlett Foundation that hopes to foster empathy between administrators and students. It’s the first part of a larger suite of programs, School Retool, aimed at redesigning many traditional, entrenched school processes.

Our take

What Are Your Students Paying Attention To?

The Shadow a Student Challenge encourages administrators to get out among their students to gain a better understanding of how the students experience the educational environment. This principal’s experience shadowing a high school student revealed more about the school’s ability to engage (or not) this student, and others. Her insights align well with a movement toward individualized and personalized learning. Are student/instructor/classroom interactions at your school similar?

It may be tough to acknowledge that a student may be getting more value out of contemplating a Rubik’s Cube than listening to your lesson, but moving from scolding students for being distracted to leveraging these distractions to identify student preferences may lead to better engagement—and learning. Whether the distraction is a Rubik’s Cube, a mobile phone, or another student, there’s something to be learned when students aren’t paying attention (to you).