Sailing towards common ground – A participatory workshop to enable school communities to co-create curricula solutions.
By ANTONIA FEDLMEIER
The pandemic hits every community slightly differently with schools in different contexts experiencing different problems. As a result, there is no one-size fits all solution. In addition, the shift to online education brings with it a sense of disconnect, with less engagement, a loss of exchange and miscommunication. How things are taught no longer fits with how students want to learn, highlighting the need to redesign curriculums in a participatory way.
“Sailing towards common ground” is a workshop concept designed to bring representatives of students, teachers and parents together to (1) understand each other’s main problems and needs, in order to then (2) prioritise and decide how to best relief some of the pressure/stress in the current curriculum. The main aim of the workshop is to mobilise the community to recognise relief points, bring order to chaos, and through this, take actions that are meaningful to the school community.
The workshop is designed to be implemented in moments of change or moments of being overwhelmed (such as when new COVID regulations are announced), in order to help create a common understanding and actionable next steps. The workshop is set up to be engaging, using metaphors, humour and simple tools to engage both students and staff. The materials can be used in an online or offline scenario, and are designed with simple language and clear visualisations to be as inclusive as possible.
Instead of presenting a one-size-fits-all solution to a problem, this concept provides a tool to enable schools to navigate an emotionally charged situation and co-create solutions to complex and collective problems. The outcome can be used as a communication tool for higher administration levels to adjust measures according to the community’s explicit needs.
Currently the workshop is set up to need a facilitator, but a future vision is to make it a stand-alone toolkit, that teachers, students or administrators can adapt and implement on their own.
The impact factor of such a workshop is extremely high compared to the time spent doing the activity as it (1) leans on participative principles to foster engagement of key stakeholders (2) it creates a basis for open communication and building of trust and support and (3) results in actionable steps that are tailored to the most urgent needs of each school. (4) It is also known that solutions developed in a participatory setting find a higher acceptance in the implementation phase due to participants feeling a co-ownership.
Our experience from facilitating workshops shows that they can result in enthusiastic engagement, empathy for other participants, and “the feeling that I am finally able to DO something about the situation”.
Adopt & Adapt
This idea is highly adaptable to any school community, as the materials are designed to guide individual school communities through a process to create tailored meaningful and actionable solutions. The main resources needed are a facilitator to help guide the workshop, and an allotted time-slot in which stakeholders (teachers/staff/students/parents) can meet – for schools with limited resources, the facilitating role could be taken on by a willing teacher or councillor. However, it should be noted that the solutions that come out of the workshop may require additional resources.