Completing a SWOT with your students
SWOT: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats
Involving the pupils with your SWOT offers you the opportunity to gather information you might not have thought of or been aware of previously. They know their own limitations and when they struggle, and they will also see the classroom very differently to you. What you see from the front of the class will look very different from where they are seated. Lighting, positioning of the board and wall displays will be perceived differently. Sensory issues are likely to distract them more.
Example; Children have amazing imaginations, they also love to tell stories. So you may even discover that the children believe that the wind blowing through a vent is a ghost haunting a classroom, which would disturb anyone!
Of course, you are already going to be aware of a lot of the things that the students raise. You know that the smells coming from the canteen mean concentration lapses at 11.30am as stomachs start to rumble; you are expecting chatter when year 9 kids walk past the classroom on their way to the basketball court and wave to their siblings, but you may not be aware of the extent of the disruption it causes to your students.
A SWOT can provide you with the evidence you need to justify changes. Perhaps you can ask the PE teacher to take the route that avoids your classroom. Plus, just having the information clearly in front of you can help to remind you of what to consider when you are doing your own planning.
Most importantly this exercise will help those students who may not realise they have a difficulty, or those who have not received a formal diagnosis. It will give them a voice to express, safely and without judgement, that; they cannot see the board properly, or that they are easily distracted and they can’t settle if something unexpected happens, or that they concentrate at their best when they are sitting on their own, or at the front of the class with others out of sight behind them.
You will gain a deeper insight and it can allow you to identify issues to explore further with individual pupils
10 advantages of a whole class SWOT
The advantages of doing a SWOT as a whole class activity are:
1. You are not singling any one person out
2. Students will be more honest if everyone is taking part.
3. You can still identify access needs of individuals and develop individual learning plans
4. You may discover issues you had not realised were there.
5. Involving the whole class makes it easier to identify and implement solutions.
6. Information from the SWOT can support you in delivering the curriculum.
7. Children feel ‘listened to’ and become more invested in their school
8. The whole class becomes aware of each other’s needs.
9. Create a more empathetic environment for everyone.
10. Spread the culture of sensitivity to the wider community.
The SWOT can support you in delivering the curriculum
If you are doing the SWOT as a class exercise, you can easily adapt it as a lesson for English, Information Technology, or PSHE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic education). It links in well with a range of topics and there are many ways to deliver it. Just choose the method that suits you, your curriculum and your pupils the best.
Adapt the SWOT to your needs
There are many adaptations you might want to make to the SWOT to better suit your students.
Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are concepts that might be difficult for your pupils, especially the younger ones. Change the headings of the sections to something more appropriate. Below are some ideas:
Strengths = What I am good at/ I am awesome at ……./ My best subjects
Weaknesses = What I need help with/ I wish I was better at ……/ Activities I least enjoy
Opportunities = What helps me learn/ My goals/ Activities that make me happy
Threats = What stops me learning/ Things I avoid/ What makes me sad or angry at school
To help guide pupils in their thinking you, ask them to think about their strengths and weaknesses in learning, with friends and in the playground. You may also want them to consider their opportunities and threats with places, people and things.
Different options for responding
Depending on the ability of your students, the lesson you are teaching and how you prefer to work, you can:
1. invite students to write their responses down on paper in a table
2. write pupils’ responses on post it notes to stick to a shared class table on the wall
3. input students’ responses to on the computer or tablet
4. pre-prepare responses on paper for students to choose from
5. pre-prepare responses in picture form for pupils to choose from
Providing options can be helpful because some pupils will benefit from the prompts. Prepared sentences or images will also allow others to respond where they might have not been able to. However, do bear in mind that this also limits the responses you will receive and the final scope of your accessibility profile.