A province-wide program in Ontario, Canada has thousands of students examining their schools for effective teaching and learning, barriers to success, and homophobia. They are experiencing Meaningful Student Involvement.
Student teams across the province from grades seven through twelve participated in the Ontario Ministry of Education SpeakUP Students as Researchers Pilot Project. To foster Student/Adult Partnerships in school and classroom activities, participants were taught about collaborative inquiry. The program emphasized hands-on learning in order to directly enhance student engagement.
Early outcomes confirmed that students were very engaged in this project and wanted to practice and apply research skills. They had questions they were interested in exploring and quickly became ready to take responsibility for seeing local projects through, especially in the interest of helping their peers. According to the Ministry’s student engagement team, Students as Researchers forums involving more than 250 student/teacher teams were planned. All project teams shared their findings with their own school, their local school board and the Ontario Ministry of Education.
That final presentation happened at the Students as Researchers Conference in Toronto in February, 2012. Students’ constantly suggested learning life skills like research and critical thinking were vital to them now and in the future, and the conference was intended to provide new ways to gather student perspectives and incorporate students’ views into school policy and directives.
This effort to involve students in research focused on Student/Adult Partnerships. Through these unique relationships, students worked alongside teachers, mobilizing student knowledge to solve serious challenges in their schools. These teams developed shared responsibility for the quality and conditions of learning and teaching, both within particular classrooms and throughout their entire school communities.
Topics addressed by the teams included:
- Effective bullying and racial harassment policies; barriers that Aboriginal youth face as they transition to our school
- Support for girls sports
- Increase self-esteem in young women
- Eliminating homophobia at school
SpeakUP is a template for large-scale action for Meaningful Student Involvement and student/adult partnerships.(Jacob, 2012; Students as Researchers Conference, 2014)