Great Programs Ask These THREE Questions


Perhaps it’s the counselor in me, but I’m a huge fan of personal reflection. When you combine that with opportunities for shared conversation you can have the most powerful impact on school improvement.

I hosted a webinar recently to help schools and youth serving organizations do a little reflection on their programs and effectiveness and I shared 3 magic questions which give you a wonderful 360 degree view. These questions are simple, but they become magic when you ask them of all the stakeholders in your program. This should include all staff, students, families, and if possible members of your community who are interested in the success of your students. Yes, this even includes your support staff. I can’t tell you how much good information I’ve gotten from administrative assistants and custodial staff. Don’t underestimate the value you have in every person who keeps your school running.

So here are your questions. This would make a great end of the year reflection activity for your last staff meeting. I love any excuse to pull out colorful post it notes, and if you line these up according to themes on the board you’ll get that visual representation covered as well.

What is going well? Often in our programs we are so focused on fixing problems that we forget something is working. Identifying strengths does a couple things for us. First, we start off from a place of positive psychology which increases our likelihood of being solution focused in the next phase, but we need to get in the habit of tooting our own horn. When we share what works in one place or space, we never know if a person in another room is struggling. They might need exactly what we’re taking for granted.

Where am I struggling? We all have something we want to improve and acknowledging that puts us all in a place of building connections as we share concerns or offer encouragement. This can also highlight potential training needs or resources that are missing. When you see themes and commonalities emerge from this question you have great direction for what you might need to focus on in your program.

What has been the biggest surprise? This is sort of my wild card question. You can get all sorts of answers to this one. Anything from the big surprise of students really loving the community garden that was started to teachers being shocked that students are not motivated by the promise of an ice cream party as a reward.

The great thing is that when lined up with the right processes for choosing actions and securing resources you are well on your way to creating a transformational program that will serve your children well.