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Fragments II: micro stories about the learning business

Introducing the Future of Parent Feedback to Schools

If you’ve recently made a purchase, chances are that by the time you got home there was an email waiting for you to open.

Thanks for being a customer, it typically begins. While you’re here, can you tell us on a scale of 1 to 10 how likely you would be to recommend us to someone else?

My own response, if I do decide to play the game, is usually to provide a low number on the basis that this kind of one-dimensional, impersonal customer engagement only detracts from any positive experience I might have had.

And yet, the Net Promoter Score (NPS) that is calculated on the basis of how customers answer this question still remains an industry standard when it comes to measuring customer experience. Even in schools, it is often used to gauge family loyalty and levels of parental satisfaction.

But can we reasonably reduce the experience of investing many years and (often) considerable expense into a child’s education to a 10-point scale on whether we’d recommend a school to someone else? Or, if we do, is this really telling us very much about how well we are doing at different stages of the family journey through our schools?

I’ve had my doubts for a while. And like many others, I’ve recently become increasingly curious about the work of pioneers like Dave Norton and his team at Stone Mantel: The Experience Strategy Company, who offer an alternative framework around the idea of “Time Well Spent”. What is particularly interesting about this new kind of thinking is that it not only promises to provide better insights to the companies gathering the data, but also offers the customer a richer, more authentic moment of reflection in their own customer journey.

So how do those of us who work in schools start to move beyond both the NPS and the ubiquitous parent satisfaction surveys that we’ve become so (depressingly) accustomed to?

The Felt Experience Indicator by [YELLOW CAR]

The Felt Experience Indicator illustrated above offers a conceptual framework designed to help us think about the questions that we are asking parents. There’s a lot to unpack and, to be honest, some of our ideas are still “a work in progress”. But here are some of the headlines that we hope will be enough to get the conversation started.

The Inner Circle

Just as the experience of school should be intentionally designed, we are convinced that we should offer the same degree of intentionality to the feedback that we gather from families at each stage of the Lifecycle of School Experience. From the moment that parents join our community, they should be clear on how we will check in with them, how their feedback will impact our understanding of their needs, and how these moments of reflection will provide opportunities for transformation as they transition between each stage of their journey through the school.

The Middle Circle When we think about our experience of school, there is a progression from Expectation and Promise to an eventual End and a residual Memory. But, equally, at each stage of the journey our parents are moving through each of these phases. This helps us to think about just some of the questions that we should be asking: What did you expect? What was your impression? How well did it end? and What will you remember? Or, if Dave Norton was in the room, I’m imagining him asking parents, Was it time well spent? and Did we get the job done for you?

The Outer Circle

So far so good, but the more that we think about this framework, the more we keep coming back to the need to define what it is that we are trying to accomplish. What, in other words, do we actually want families to feel at each stage of their journey with us? Are there some objectives that might just be universal to all families choosing a school for their child? And, if so, shouldn’t we be designing questions that measure the extent to which we are reaching these goals? So at the risk of someone telling us otherwise, we are putting it out there that most of the parents that we’ve ever met are looking for 6 distinct dimensions to their experience of school. They might be described as follows:

  • My child and we as a family are happy.

  • We feel connected and welcomed as members of the community.

  • This is a place where we belong and feel at home.

  • We understand how our child is learning and information flows effectively between us and the school.

  • We are confident that this was a good choice for us and our children.

  • We feel grateful for this opportunity to be a part of this learning community.

Our sense is that we should be looking for each of these feelings at each stage of the Lifecycle of School Experience.

One last thought.

As educators, we know that our students need opportunities for feedback and reflection as they grow as learners. We call it assessment. In the same way, I guess that one of the things that we are proposing here is that our families will transition effectively through our schools precisely to the extent that they are given these moments of feedback and reflection along the way. And what we happen to learn ourselves at exactly the same time will also be completely invaluable.

Cover Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash.


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