Julie Bennett examines the ways in which SWOT analysis can be used with your pupils for brainstorming and exploring projects, ideas, change and decisions.

SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat) analysis is a useful technique that can be used with your students on a personal level to:

  • explore and develop provision for students with special needs
  • raise student self-awareness within in a learning context
  • gain feedback about the way in which your students respond to your teaching styles and methods.

SWOT as a personal tool

SWOT analysis has been widely used as a problem-solving and project-planning tool. It can help you to focus on key issues of relevance to the project in hand. However, the SWOT method can also be used in a personal context. When used in this way it can show us how to take full advantage of pupils’ talent and abilities. It can help to uncover new learning opportunities and eliminate perceived threats in the learning environment.

How do I apply SWOT analysis with my pupils?

You might want to explore ways in which you can personalize learning and develop differentiation in the classroom. Consider this with your pupils by asking them questions in terms of four areas:

Strengths What are your personal strengths and the resources available to you?

Weaknesses In what areas could you improve?

Opportunities What are the opportunities in school that you enjoy? What possibilities can you see for developing your learning?

Threats What are the obstacles or barriers that you face? Do they present threats to your learning?

Brainstorm these ideas with your students (ensuring that their privacy is respected). It doesn’t matter about the order of the thoughts as it is more important to map their ideas, record them on paper and use this as a springboard for discussion and development.

Once pupils have got their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats worked out, they can begin to consider if the strengths and opportunities outweigh the weaknesses and threats. They may see that there is an immediate threat that means the idea is not viable. Try to get them to think a little deeper to see if the idea can be changed in some way to minimize this threat.

It is easy to design a simple worksheet for this purpose.

SWOT analysis can also be used at a personal level with pupils, as well as to examine an idea presented in the context of a lesson as discussed above.

A list of strengths and weaknesses for an individual pupil is gathered using this worksheet and the sections on opportunities and threats can be used to highlight the implications of this for teaching and learning. This tool can work well with a whole class. It is particularly useful if you have time to sit down with one pupil and talk to them about their thoughts and complete it together. I would then have a discussion with the pupil to talk about adjustments that the student can make as well as those that I could make as the teacher.

Here are some questions you could explore with your students:

Strengths

What am I good at? What do others think I am good at? What do I enjoy doing? What areas am I competent in that are not just subject specific? (Think in wider terms of emotional and social intelligence too.) What subjects do I get good marks in? Are there particular learning styles that I lean towards?

Weaknesses

Are there any specific subjects, skills or areas that I am weaker in (including multiple intelligences and emotional literacy)? Do I have any specific learning difficulties, eg dyslexia? (Write a break-down with specific key words of three areas that are most challenging for the student – don’t try to fit in too many.)

Opportunities

How can I use my strengths to overcome my weakness? What strategies could I devise or use to appeal to my strengths and compensate for my weaknesses. What motivates me? How could I (or my teacher) make small adjustments to help me learn more effectively?

Threats

What makes me feel uncomfortable in class? What hinders me or stops me from learning? What de-motivates me?

Caveats!

  • Don’t give the worksheets to students and expect them to fill them in un-aided as this may cause students with lower self-esteem to focus solely on their weaknesses.
  • Do not use the SWOT tool as fixed and permanent measure of a person – people change!

Do

  • Have fun developing the idea.
  • Copy the worksheet and use it with your students.
  • Involve the students in the activity.
  • Give time to think about and reflect on this activity – some students (and teachers) may find it difficult to get started.
  • Use it as a discussion starter and springboard.
  • Try it with all ages – just adapt the questions to suit your level (eg Year 1 might discuss and complete: ‘My best subject is..’ ‘My worst subject is…’ ‘I like it when…’ ‘I don’t like it when…’).
  • Use the valuable information you gain from SWOT, to add to your insights and to enhance your teaching. TEX

Julie Bennett is a freelance consultant and author of the new Dyslexia Pocketbook published by Teachers Pocketbooks ISBN 1 903776 68 6.

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