In preparing for the start of a new school year, I sought to improve the workflow efficiency of our current behavior management system. As a science teacher, I was not confident in the use of Power Automate in the beginning, but I later found it to be intuitive to use and very helpful.
The requirements were that when a student breached the acceptable behavior standards, the following process had to be followed:
- Teachers at the scene are to deal with the situation immediately.
- The relevant year level coordinator had to be notified with a summary of the context and the nature of offending behavior via email. Other teachers of the student should also have access to this information for future reference.
- The year level coordinator will then contact the student’s parents via email and offer an opportunity to discuss the situation by phone.
- Finally, the student will receive detention at the time and location specified by the year level coordinator.
As these detailed steps are frequently required (usually on a daily basis), it presents a significant challenge to teachers who are already experiencing raising workload concerns and often need to continue teaching amidst the other administrative duties. This is where Power Automate has helped to eliminate a number of repetitive steps by automating the process and address the problem in an efficient way.
Below are the challenges with each step in the original process used by the school and how my flow addresses each of those challenges.
- As mentioned earlier, teachers are often in the middle of teaching or some other duty when the situation occurs. It is difficult to find out all the details of the student and who their respective year level coordinator/ other teachers are. This is especially the case for replacement or cover teachers.
By integrating MS Forms responses into Power Automate, I was able to minimize the effort required from teachers down to only selecting the student’s name and class, and then writing a summary of the context. The background processing in Power Automate reduces the number of steps teachers have to do by finding out the student’s other teachers automatically, and then sending an email out to only the relevant people when a form is received.
- As the year level coordinator gets notified of this event, another draft email is written up within Power Automate, ready to be sent from the year level coordinator’s account and addressed to the parents. This is achieved by connecting Power Automate to an excel contact list database via OneDrive for Business. The background processing is helpful in this case because it automatically searches for the parent’s contact details and writes the emails, which would have otherwise been another time-consuming process.
- To ensure that the email content is appropriate and as an additional safety measure, there is an extra approval process step before the email is sent to parents. Year level coordinators can view and approve the messages on Teams with the click of a button, and the email will be sent to the respective parents from their account. Traditionally if the coordinator was on leave or absent on the day, these emails would be delayed until they returned. However, with my flow being connected to all coordinators, other coordinators could step in and approve the messages on their behalf if required, making for a more streamlined and timely process.
- In this example the students all have a fixed timetable, so there is little choice in the times available for detention. However, it is possible to incorporate this system into a more complex setting where automatic scheduling could be involved if students have more flexibility in their timetables.
This is just one example of how Power Automate could be used in a school setting, where these technologies are desperately needed and yet severely underutilized. Please let me know if you have any other great examples like this in a similar setting, or if you have any questions about how I can help with the above.