A SWOT diagram is a simple matrix that illustrates strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Creating SWOT analysis charts with students can be an exploration, a chance to inspire learning and to capitalize on students' natural abilities. In the context of educational goals, students and teachers should work together to compile characteristics within the grid. That will keep students focused on solutions, turning what might be perceived as a negative into a positive.
The origins of SWOT analysis are unclear, but multiple reports give credit to professors at Harvard and Stanford universities, anywhere from the 1920s to the 1960s, as they studied groups of executives and their ability to effect change within their companies. The use of this assessment tool as it relates to students encourages them to take control of their educational goals.
A student SWOT assessment diagram is a subjective approach to problem solving, project planning and reviewing education from all angles. It is a strategy formation modified to specifically relate to students, helping teachers evaluate students' skills. Utilizing a SWOT model also creates realistic expectations between students and their teachers.
The diagram itself illustrates academic achievement and points out where more work is required. The analysis breaks down students' characteristics into the four categories: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It is a brainstorming tool that allows for a strategic look at problem solving and attempts to maximize solutions, whether focused on a short-term project for a particular class or on long-term goals such as getting a high grade or attending a particular college. Strengths and weaknesses are internal forces, whereas opportunities and threats are external.
A student SWOT analysis determines where students rank academically versus where they perceive they are, and puts strong focus on where they could be if they address the weaknesses and threats that keep them from reaching their goals. It is a powerful tool for opening discussion, setting specific targets and inspiring critical thought. It also facilitates teachers attempting to identify their students' individual learning styles.
By creating a SWOT diagram, students are able to take control of their educational goals and adjust their actions to make more progress. The visual aspect of the model (in matrix or grid form) raises students' self-awareness, creates a dialogue between students and teachers and provides a method by which teachers can gain feedback on their methods. By outlining and defining students' educational assets, teachers can adapt their styles and lesson plans, and capitalize on new learning opportunities, which will likely result in academic success and fulfillment for both student and teacher.
Shelagh Braley has 11 years' experience as a writer, copy editor and managing editor for newspapers, magazines and websites. She was organizing expert-in-residence at www.bomoms.com (Boston Globe's parent web site) and blogs at www.linearthoughtsorganizing.blogspot.com. She received a journalism degree from Northeastern University in Boston.