Student Needs and Input Continue at Center of SMES Ongoing Innovation

Head of School Will Moseley often reminds that an educational institution standing still is falling behind. In this spirit of ongoing innovation, St. Margaret’s professional community rang in 2020 on Monday’s In-Service Day with strategic planning work to continually advance the student academic experience.
 
Revisiting the innovation process that the school has been utilizing since 2016, all members of the professional community were asked to choose a planning team by one of the school’s core values. On Monday, the core value teams further broke out by division focus to review and discuss their chosen core value, and develop open-ended, probing questions in preparation for ethnographic interviews with students about their student experience through the lens of that core value.
 
Allowing choice of where to focus their efforts has been a successful approach to engage all members of the professional community in ongoing strategic planning.
 
“When you care about something, your work is that much more purposeful. Our professional community is committed to the school’s mission, core values and our continual process of innovation,” said Mr. Moseley. “Choice allows them to dedicate their time in areas that are of high importance to them, and work alongside and build relationships with colleagues who share their interest and passion. This only makes the outcomes for our students more rewarding and meaningful. I am very grateful and inspired by the creativity and dedication of our professional community.
 
St. Margaret’s has also used the design-thinking methodology that puts students and their needs at the center of the innovation process through empathy.
 
“The design thinking process is a human-centered approach to innovation requiring a deep understanding of the experience of those you are designing for. In design thinking you often hear, ‘fall in love with your end-user.’ In our work serving students and our approach to knowing and loving them, it deepens our understanding and relationships and has proven to be a perfect fit,” said Assistant Head of School for Strategic Initiatives Ryan Dahlem. “The ethnographic interviews are an important part of how we embark on meaningful change to continually enhance the learning experience for our students at St. Margaret’s.”
 
The design-thinking methodology has driven St. Margaret’s strategic plan work for the past several years, and has led to such strategic initiatives as the school schedule redesign, implementation of the Upper School innovation block, revamping of the school’s service-learning program and introduction of virtual reality courses and learning experiences. The approach has gathered attention in the broader education community, including the National Association of Independent Schools, which invited St. Margaret’s to consult on the next iteration of NAIS’s Strategy Lab program.
 
In the next month, every member of the professional community will conduct one-on-one ethnographic interviews, a proven type of qualitative research that fosters empathy, with students to understand and hear feedback on their St. Margaret’s experience within the context of the core value to identify areas for improvement in the school program. The teams will reconvene on the February 24 In-Service Day to analyze their findings and identify common themes around which to ideate and design prototypes as a next step in the innovation process. 
 
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An independent preschool through grade 12 college-preparatory day school in Orange County, California
St. Margaret’s Episcopal School
31641 La Novia Avenue
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
949.661.0108
 
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