People sometimes ask, ‘Can all teachers learn to share decision-making with their pupils, or is this is just for a certain type of teacher?’ Although certain characteristics have been identified as being present in teachers who independently use more collaborative ways of teaching, such as a belief in children’s creativity and a wish to participate, the culture of the school is likely to be one of the strongest determinants of how easily teachers will adapt to more collaborative approaches. This being said research suggests that teachers are most comfortable when they are supported to find creative and personal ways of developing collaborative decision-making that suit their own classrooms.

There are a few easy starting points which most teachers can adapt:

  • Start holding a class meeting once a month, to discuss how things are going for you all. Whether you have your own class (or form group) or you are subject teacher, you can still set time by with your class to discuss your experiences of the lessons so far.
  • Try pausing in a lesson and asking your pupils, ‘How’s this lesson going for you? Is there anything I can change right now that would help you to enjoy the lesson or learn better?’
  • Tell your class what curriculum content you need to cover with them and ask them how you as a class might go about planning this – see video below.
  • Start listing the decisions you make on behalf of your class and find one or two decisions you could involve them in. Take this survey to find out the current balance of decision-making in your classroom. Even better, consider completing it with your class and deciding on an area of decision-making where you could collaborate more fully.
  • Think about school-based decisions that affect you that you would like more of a say in, and talk to your manager about how you might be more involved in future decision-making.

This 3 minute video shows how one teacher uses curriculum negotiation.

‘It’s all about getting a balance between putting students in the driving seat and giving them guidance.’

If you have already been using collaborative decision-making with your pupils, or have been involved by your manager in school-level decision-making, we would like to hear about Your Stories.

Further reading

It’s Our School, It’s Our Time: a companion guide to whole-school collaborative decision-making by Geraldine Rowe is available now to pre-order from Routledge.

Garth Boomer’s book Negotiating The Curriculum: Educating for the 21st Century is an inspirational book which doesn’t avoid any of the pitfalls of collaborative teaching. The first chapter of this book is available online and is worth a read.

For Early Years practitioners, I recommend Never Too Young – a highly practical collection of approaches by Judy Miller.

Derry Hannam, friend and campaigner for democratic education, has written a book about his experiences as a democratic teacher: Another Way is Possible: Becoming a Democratic Teacher in a State School. This is an inspiring and enjoyable book and is required reading for anyone interested in learning, pedagogy, school culture and social justice.

Connect is an Australian bi-monthly practice journal supporting active student participation. Edited by Roger Holdsworth, Connect has been published since 1979 and can be downloaded free of charge. Good student voice resources including some for School Councils.

Adam Fletcher is a consultant on Youth Engagement and Social Change. He generously shares research and resources and his website is full of goodies to help youth to change the world.

Student Voice Research and Practice is a Facebook group for anyone to share ongoing research, questions, thoughts, information about student voice and related activities such as pupil consultation, youth-adult partnerships, child participation and the like.

Collaborative Teaching is part of the website of the New Zealand Ministry of Education. Some of the videos I have embedded in Pupil Participation come from this website.

Chris Watkins was one of the reasons I chose to do my doctorate at the UCL Institute of Education, where he is Emeritus Reader in Education. I liked his ideas and thought that as Chris had chosen to work at the Institute, then I might feel at home there, and I did. Chris has generously made all his publications available on his website. Put by a couple of hours to browse through his work. It will be well worth the time.