Nuestra Escuela is a non-profit school in Caguas, Puerto Rico, that has touched the lives of 1,745 youth and their families and grown into a bustling center for alternative education. Nuestra Escuela’s academic model is based on responding to the biological, psychological, and social needs of children and adults. Their teaching style emphasizes human contact, dialog-based teaching, and biopsychosocial support. By focusing on students’ capacities to continuously innovate and better themselves, they cultivate young entrepreneurs.
Listening and feedback have always been important for Nuestra Escuela. They have a uniquely democratic feedback system with parents, teachers, and students: First, they recognize needs by listening to each other in circles. Then, they work together to create collaborative solutions and distribute responsibilities to solve the problems that arose in the circles. Finally, they monitor the progress of each group by sharing transparent matrices for each problem. All parts of the process are democratic and power is evenly distributed.
However, even in the best feedback systems, there is room for improvement. Nuestra Escuela finds that the biggest challenges in their feedback process were creating a culture of responsibility and ownership for problems raised during feedback sessions and time management for the team when they have to address lots of feedback. Nuestra Escuela invited Feedback+San Juan attendees to join them for a collaborative problem-solving LabStorm to work through some of these challenges. After a tour of the school headquarters in Caguas, Puerto Rico, the group of professionals from across the world sat down to help Nuestra Escuela problem-solve. Here is what the LabStorm group had to say:
1. Ask before taking action. Nuestra Escuela wants to keep their finger on the pulse of the community by communicating frequently with students and parents. However, they don’t want to stretch their resources doing frequent questionnaires or cause feedback fatigue. LabStorm attendees suggested that before they set their feedback schedule, Nuestra Escuela should ask students and parents how often they would like to give feedback on Nuestra Escuela’s services. They may discover that the community wants to give feedback less frequently, or in new ways.
2. Bite-sized pieces. Sometimes, community members give Nuestra Escuela feedback that is difficult to address. LabStorm attendees recommended that Nuestra Escuela start by breaking the problem down into bite-sized pieces. That way, Nuestra Escuela can work on one piece at a time, rather than being overwhelmed by the size of the problem. LabStorm attendees also noted that the most important thing is to close the loop with the community. If someone gives a piece of feedback that cannot be addressed immediately, Nuestra Escuela can still reach out to them and let them know that they were heard. In order to keep trust with the community, it is important to close the loop and keep people informed on the progress of their requests.
3. Keep it simple. LabStorm attendees also noted that when it comes to continuous program improvement, it is best to keep the process simple. Rather than creating intricate feedback plans and systems, Nuestra Escuela can do an exercise such as “grows and glows” or an online survey with students and parents. These streamlined options will make it easier for Nuestra Escuela staff to analyze the feedback and save them time. These feedback mechanisms can also be an opportunity to bring the community together – for example, the online survey could be a side activity at a family night with food.
Nuestra Escuela has been a prominent member of the feedback community for many years, and they have inspired many organizations to follow their lead. This LabStorm showed us that even the best feedback systems can be improved. Do you have any suggestions for Nuestra Escuela on how they can collect high-quality feedback without overloading their staff? Please leave a comment below or email [email protected]