There are many ways to measure Meaningful Student Involvement. One of the primary ways is by looking at the outcomes. SoundOut identifies Relationships, Rigor and Relevance as being the key outcomes to consider.
Relationships are the most vital factor in determining the meaningfulness of student involvement. Adults who are chosen by students to provide safe, supportive relationships with them are called adult allies. Students can seek guidance from adult allies on informal and formal bases. Adult allies encourage students to work in solidarity with other students and adults when possible, and when that’s not possible they help strategize appropriate relationships. When students and adults have consciously chosen to work for equity and equality together, they form a type of relationship called a student/adult partnership. Student/Adult Partnerships can be present throughout the education system and are an innate component of Meaningful Student Involvement. These relationships include systematic, horizontal student-to-student mentorships and consultations, and gives students room to seek guidance from their peers all the time, as well as adults when appropriate.
In Meaningful Student Involvement, relationships give students opportunities to determine clearly stated goals, a plan of action, and time limits or deadlines. Students should start with short-term goals and activities in order to ensure their relationships with other students and adults, too. Students should not expected to make representations on behalf of the whole student body. There are careful considerations for activities, including to ensure that other areas of a students’ life do not suffer from their involvement, including their health, family, schoolwork, friends, or community activities. If students are selected to be involved by adults, consideration is also made to how that happens, and whether there’s a suitable alternative.
Students are adults should be aware of the peer-to-peer relationships among students. It’s important to encourage non-hierarchical relationships among students that are focused on equality and commonality. Furthering separating and segregating students within the student body in the name of meaningful involvement does nothing for students. Instead, encouraging cross-boundary student-to-student relationships enforces the collaborative, team-building orientation of Meaningful Student Involvement. Students who are involved should deliberately capture others students’ opinions, and report back to their peers when appropriate.
Rigor is a key element in ensuring that student involvement is meaningful. Measuring rigor in Meaningful Student Involvement focuses primarily on robustness and authenticity.
One element of rigor in Meaningful Student Involvement is present in having different types of students motivated and encouraged to be meaningfully involved throughout education. Outreach should focus on historically disengaged students, differently-abled students, low achieving students, students from different youth sub-cultures, low-income students, and students from any minority populations within a school or community.
Meaningful Student Involvement should include an active recruitment program that’s integrated into the course of the regular school day. Currently involved students should be encouraged to nurture their successors, while all the students should be given opportunities to learn the knowledge and skills critical to their successful involvement. Meaningful Student Involvement needs to be visible in activities, programs, services and policy-making throughout individual schools and districts, as well as state education agencies and education-oriented nonprofits. Actively involved students should have student mentors who coach them when necessary
Rigorous activities focused on Meaningful Student Involvement should have resources dedicated specifically to engage students as partners, including training and travel budgets, technology, and office space. Students should be actively encouraged to speak at meetings, and active measures within the school should promote a positive image of students among adults.
In all activities, addressing student issues should happen primarily from a positive, present, and powerful perspective. It is important for students to critically examine and critique student involvement, schools, and the larger society. However, that should not happen at the expense of maintaining their positive, present, and powerful perspectives. Participants in all activities should be prepared for turnover among the students and adults involved in Meaningful Student Involvement as well. Traditional processes should be made more flexible to accommodate engaging students as partners, including timelines and deadlines. The most rigorous Meaningful Student Involvement activities build upon existing student involvement opportunities.
Assigning school staff the responsibility is a challenging, yet essential, component to ensuring rigor. School assignments should include pay, re-balancing work loads, and otherwise compensating school staff for their work. Adults throughout the school community can volunteer to support Meaningful Student Involvement, as can students.
Ensuring the relevance of Meaningful Student Involvement happens when students are integrated as partners throughout the education system, and when activities stay genuinely focused on student voice.
Relevance can be ensured when deliberate steps are taken to ensure the issues addressed by Meaningful Student Involvement are relevant to students. Capacities that are explicitly developed among student and adults should be connected to schooling and the world beyond the activity students are engaged in. Acknowledging and/or assessing student learning from Meaningful Student Involvement should happen throughout the activity, and clear classroom learning connections should be drawn whenever appropriate. Ultimately, the relevance of Meaningful Student Involvement can be determined through the assessment and acknowledgement of student and adults learning, both about engaging students as partners throughout education, and about classroom based learning, when appropriate.
Steps should be taken to ensure that recognition is relevant to students, as well as to make sure Meaningful Student Involvement is fun for both students and adults. Students should have opportunities to form friendships beyond activities. Meaningful Student Involvement can enhance the goals and mission of your school, and activities should reflect those connections.
- Measuring the Activities in Meaningful Student Involvement
- Locations for Meaningful Student Involvement
- Meaningful Student Involvement Toolbox
- Measuring the People in Meaningful Student Involvement
- SoundOut Student Engagement Conditions Assessment