Three reasons why you should be doing student-led professional development at your school.


Hey Advocates, 

This week, I want to discuss the value of student-led professional development. Consider traditional thoughts about adult/student learning dynamics. Typically, students are viewed as the receivers of learning, and adults provide the teaching. However, we need to remove the idea that students are exclusively the learners and adults are solely the teachers.

Amplifying your student's voices is a game-changing way to improve teaching and learning. Student-led professional development influences teacher practices (Holdsworth, 2014). It's essential to incorporate what students say and go through to make lessons relevant to their needs.

Who are we serving, and who should ultimately benefit from our professional development?

The outcome from PD must be tools to serve your students and their families better. Who better to learn from? We talk about co-teaching and learning from our students from a classroom level. But we don't always talk about the importance and value of learning instructional support from our students. Imagine having a PD day with 3 to 4 Sessions, 45 minutes or hour-long sessions, all presented from a student's perspective. We have groups of kids, 2 or 3 students presenting. The day's theme is “This is what we prefer” or “What we would appreciate when we walk into a classroom.”

I suggest this with a caveat: You must ensure students receive guidance on creating their workshops. Support them in their efforts because they're going to be nervous. If we support them, practice with them, and guide them through this process by working together and collaborating, everyone wins. Your staff learns what their students want firsthand, and the students feel heard.

We facilitate a lot of student affinity groups at the Leading Equity Center. Darlene Reyes, Student Equity Instructor, does an amazing job working with students. She facilitates what we call “working sessions.” These working sessions are essentially opportunities for the students to identify a challenge they're facing in their school experience. We ask, “If money wasn't an issue, resources weren't an issue, What would make your day perfect? What would be a perfect school day for you? Or what would be a great experience for you? What challenges are you facing within your school setting that we would love to see change?” Darlene helps the students not only identify these challenges, but she also supports the students with finding solutions. Why does she help the students find solutions?

Think about it: we recognize that school leaders have a million different things to do on any given day. Having students “complaining” about their experiences at school may be another challenge on their plate. “We feel like the teachers don’t like us” is an example of what an administrator may hear from students. In addition to budgeting, staffing, etc. But what if the students expressed their concerns about the teachers not liking them with 3 or 4 suggestions on creating a sense of belonging in the classroom?

Additionally, students present these challenges/solutions professionally with a slide deck. Now, as a leader, you are made aware firsthand from students about whether they feel accepted, supported, and included and strategies to support their needs. Here are some more benefits to consider:

Making Educators Feel More Confident and Ready: Homrich-Knieling (2023) found that student-led PD sessions help educators understand their students' experiences and build empathy. Hearing from students gives teachers helpful tips on fostering classroom community making learning fun and welcoming for everyone. 

Working Together and Thinking Over Teaching Methods: Listening to students' voices helps teachers partner better with students and think and reflect on their teaching practices. This team spirit makes teachers look closely at how they teach and change things based on what students actually say they need. 

Helping Every Kind of Learner: When student ideas lead the way in PD, it allows teachers understand all the different needs students have, giving educators a roadmap for equitable teaching practices. By seeing things from the student's point of view, teachers can make lessons that work for everyone, no matter what tools a student needs to thrive.

The bottom line is that we must listen to our students' voices about their experiences to guide teacher training. It is a great way to be culturally responsive and support a sense of belonging. Bringing students' lived experiences into the mix can make learning more relevant, effective, and sustaining for all students. This doesn't just help us grow professionally. It also ensures the PD is student-centered and ultimately more intentional.

Those are my thoughts this week. Make sure you check out Monday's podcast episode next week.

Have a great weekend,



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