POSSIBILITIES for Students as School
Examining curricular effectiveness
Identifying important issues among their
Analyzing student-adult relationships
Co-designing school improvement research
of Students as Researchers
These are summaries of real stories from schools across the US where
students have been engaged as researchers, exploring the schools they
participate in everyday.
Students in Poughkeepsie, New York
conducted research on their district’s budget crisis as part of a
government class. After designing a 57-question survey that solicited
opinions from fellow students on what should be included in next
year’s school district budget, the students hand-tabulated and
analyzed data from 596 completed surveys - over half the student
body. When district board members came to their regular budget
meeting, a surprise was waiting: student-created data from that survey
highlighted exactly what students thought should be included in next
year’s school district budget. Board members gave their approval: “Student input should be solicited
and gathered periodically so that students can always be a part of the
process. Students want to be involved!” When the
Poughkeepsie Board of Education passed its budget for the next
school year, they introduced an new line item: $25,000 for
Who Runs Schools?
Students with the Youth Strategy Project in Oakland, California, have
written a research report that explores the dilemma of school
leadership and its relationships to academic achievement and social
justice, as exemplified by the Oakland schools. The report identifies
the national education trend of incapacitating public schools and the
systemic disenfranchisement of poor people and communities of color.
and Advocacy Project
Several school districts
in Connecticut are participating in a student action research program
coordinated by the Youth Action Research Institute. This program
is a model program that engages students in identifying and
researching issues that affect the quality of education
in their schools and elsewhere in the state. The program, for
fifth and six graders, has nine teachers participating who are
integrating student driven action research into their classrooms using
cooperative learning methods into core curricular activities. The
project’s methods and goals include assessing the effects of PAR on
students, educators, and the overall school communities involved.
Students as Research Allies What
Kids Can Do, a nonprofit youth advocacy organization in Providence,
Rhode Island, began a program in 2003 looking to engage students as
allies in schools across the United States. "Students as Allies" has
consequently involved hundreds of students in dozens of schools in
California, Indiana, New York, and other states. More than one of
their projects focuses on students engaged as researchers, and this
particular report is valuable for its other examples, as well.
Students Searching for Success
A high school principal
in Bear Valley, California wanted to explore students’ views of
learning, so she started a student-research program. The group
focused on the questions, “Do our school restructuring activities
really make fundamental changes in the learning process? Does
all of our work have an impact in the classroom?” As part of the
yearlong study, the student researchers participated in a twice-weekly
course that focused on their work, and consequently, the students
became the driving force in the data collection and analyses.
Students conceived the methods used and led the data collection work.
In their study, the student researchers collected data from 200 of the
school’s 1,600 students. They also explored learning outside of
school, how students learn best, and the school’s impacts on students
learning. - Story is taken from
J., Shanessey, J. (ed). (1997). Look Who's Talking Now: Student
Views of Restructuring Schools. Portland, OR: Northwest Regional
Separate But Unequal
For many kids, summer camp means pitching tents
and listening to spooky stories around a campfire. But for 100 city
students who signed on as co-researchers on a university project,
summer camp was serious business. The kids -- white, African American,
Latino, Asian, and Afro-Caribbean, with a range of achievement levels
-- examined race, ethnicity, and class in their New York area high
schools. At the first camp session, City University of New York
researchers Michelle Fine and Maria Elena Torre unveiled their plan
for an achievement gap study. But the students proposed a broader
“opportunity gap” study that included student achievement as one of
several “separate but unequal” issues. They suggested topics the adult
researchers hadn’t thought of, such as immigrant students’ school
experiences and school counselors’ interactions with students of
different races. During the following school year, reports Susan
Black, the kids administered nearly 10,000 surveys and analyzed them
by race, ethnicity, curriculum track, school location, and school
size. Then they compared the survey results with additional
information collected from focus groups, observations, and interviews.
The student researchers didn’t set out to change the world, but they
hoped their research would “inspire action and some new and creative
ideas for improving schools.”
for Students as Researchers
This section features organizations and programs focused on engaging
students as educational researchers in schools across the US.
Students as Allies in Improving Their Schools
What Kids Can Do worked with youth
organizations in five cities across the US to engage students as
they ask powerful questions about schools. Their site includes
stories, resources, essays, and summaries of student researchers'
findings about student voice, relationships, school effectiveness,
Youth Action Research Institute
(formerly the National Teen Action Research Center) is a program of
the Institute for Community Research, located in Hartford,
Connecticut. YARI promotes the use of action research for personal,
group, and community development.
Youth Action Research Group
program at Georgetown University, involves
community residents in defining, researching and critically
analyzing the challenges facing their neighborhoods. The young
people in YARG learn participatory action research methods and
ethnographic techniques to better understand their surrounding
community for the purpose of addressing pressing social issues.
Youth Strategy Project
Center's youth program, located in Oakland, California, provides
strategic research, consultation, and training for social, economic
and environmental justice organizations. It is tailored to build the
research and analytical skills of the next generation of movement
CIRCLE Youth-Led Research
CIRCLE, a youth civic engagement research program at the University
of Maryland, annually supports a number of student-led research
projects across the nation that focus on education. Past projects
have examined school culture, teaching efficacy, racism, and more.
Students as Researchers
A program of the Australia Department of Education.
for Students as Researchers These are
actual curricula, discussion frameworks, research tools, and other
activity-oriented publications focused on engaging students as
Research on Schools Example Page
A collection of student-written research studies focusing on
How to research issues at your school
[PDF] A guide to action research
written for youth.
Sample surveys for students
[PDF] Designed by students working
with What Kids Can Do's Students as Allies Project, these
surveys will help you listen to student voice.
A sample survey written by students
[PDF] A survey written by students with Youth in Focus in
California that asks students how successful they think their
Guide to Getting Started
A short how-to from CIRCLE on
creating a student-led research project.
Criteria to Assess Youth Involvement in Decision-Making
This is a powerfully comprehensive measurement of youth
involvement in schools by the Canadian Association on School
Health. It includes the relationship of youth involvement to the
sponsoring organization; the nature of youth involvement; the
processes of youth involvement; applications of youth
involvement, and; evidence of youth involvement.
Student Voice Indicator Tool
[MS Word doc] The Government of
South Australia designed this tool to measure several aspects of
student voice throughout schools.
Ladder of Student
Fletcher adapted this tool from the work of Roger Hart in order
to identify potential location of students throughout school
Assessing Student Voice
Prof. Michael Fielding first established this framework in 2001
for Forum. Since then, dozens of projects have used it to
evaluate their efforts.
Student-Designed & Delivered Classroom Observation Tool
Students at Lexington
High School in Massachusetts use this tool to evaluate their
teachers' classroom performance.
Guide to Consulting Students about Schools
[PDF] From a UK-based project that studies "pupil voice" in
schools for students under-18 years old.
Turn Up the Volume: The Students Speak Toolkit
(Third Edition). Roberts &
Kay, Inc. (2002). Lexington, KY: Partnership for Kentucky Schools.
Listening to Student Voices (2001)
Northwest Regional Education Lab.
Empowered Voices: A
Participatory Action Research Curriculum for Girls
curriculum is a project designed to reduce or prevent substance
abuse and risky sexual behavior and increase school attachment
through participatory action research. Published by the Institute for Community Research.
Participatory Action Research
Curriculum for Empowering Youth
Published by the Institute for Community Research.
Youth Engaged in Leadership &
YELL is a free curriculum provided by the J. Gardner
Center for Youth and Their Communities at Stanford University. It is
designed for anyone involved in youth development and leadership,
particularly working in schools.
Consulting Pupils: A Toolkit for Teachers.
MacBeath, J., Demetriou, H., Rudduck, J., &
Myers, K. (2003). London: Pearson.
Students as Researchers: Making a Difference.
Fielding, M. & Bragg, S. (2003) London:
Participatory Action Research Curriculum for Empowering
Sydlo, S.J., et al. (2000). Hartford, CT:
The Institute for Community Research.
about Students as Researchers
These are articles from newsletters,
magazines, websites, and organizations focused on engaging students
as researchers in schools.
Regional Education Labs
& Student Voice SoundOut
compilation of different government-funded educational research
organizations' work on student voice and involvement.
Critical Voices Researchers are beginning to turn to high schoolers to
help design and carry out studies that examine the issues affecting students and
their schools. In this study, students are both the subjects of research and
the researchers themselves.
Youth Involvement in Evaluation and
Written by the Harvard Family Research
Creating Community Change: Challenges
and Tensions in Community Youth Research
from the Gardner Center at Stanford University.
Youth Engaged in Leadership &
Learning (Youth Mapping) annotated bibliography
issue brief from the Gardner Center at Stanford University.
Going the Distance: Supporting
Community Youth Development
Power Point presentation at the Coalition of
Community Foundation for Youth 2002 Annual Conference
by the Gardner Center.
Establishing the Importance of Youth
Participation in Community Evaluation and Research
from the Journal of Community Youth Development.
From informants to co-researchers.
Groundwater-Smith, S. &
Downes, T. (1999). Paper presented at the Australian Association for Research in
Education Annual Conference. Melbourne, November.
Students as Researchers
Susan Black explores a groundbreaking project in New York City where
dozens of students examine the experiences, opinions, and ideas of
students about dozens of issues in their educational experiences
SooHoo, S. (1993).
Students as partners in research and restructuring schools. The Educational Forum
57. Summer: 386-393.
about Students as Researchers
This section features books or chapters in books
that specifically address engaging students as researchers in schools.
Silenced Voices and Extraordinary Conversations:
Wies, L. & Fine, M. (2003). This book is a collection of papers that examines
many social justice issues in public education. The first section is a
collection of papers mostly from the 1980s that explores the active "silencing"
that plagues students of color and low-income students in American schools. The
second section is co-written with students, exploring their perspectives and the
research these student researchers have conducted to provide powerful lessons
for pre-service and experienced teachers.
Students as researchers: Creating classrooms that matter.
Steinberg, S. & Kinchleloe, J. (1998). Bristol, PA: Falmer Press.
Chapter 3: Research in the hands
Shaughnessy, J. & Kushman,
in Restructuring Collaborative
(1997) Look Who's Talking
Now: Student Views of Restructuring Schools. Portland, OR: Northwest
Regional Educational Laboratory.
Students Teaching, Teachers Learning.
Branscombe, A., Goswami, D., Schwartz, J. (1992). Portsmouth, NH:
Boynton/Cook. This book focuses on shared inquiry. The research
projects detailed in these chapters show how classroom dynamics change
and more active learning takes place for both teacher and student when
collaboration is involved. The projects here range from elementary
through graduate school in both rural and urban, public and private
SoundOut webpage on
Students as Evaluators
to Student Voice