Articles Teaching Tools

Principles of Student/Adult Partnerships

When schools foster Meaningful Student Involvement, they are moving beyond simply listening to student voice. Instead, students and educators are working to nurture authentic partnerships throughout learning, teaching and leadership that require nothing short of equity, and not equality.

The following principles were identified by students and adults working together in order to help schools understand what Student/Adult Partnerships actually do in schools. When the Principles of Student/Adult Partnerships are present, equitable partnerships are enacted and meaningful involvement is possible.

Principles of Student/Adult Partnerships

Principle 1: RESPECT
Respect is mutual: You give it, you receive it.

  • A culture of respect shatters stereotypes based on age or academic achievement.
  • Students respect adults who listen and ask challenging questions.
  • Cultures of respect allow all students and adults have opportunities to act on their dreams and learn from their mistakes.

Listen up: An honest and open exchange of ideas is crucial.

  • Students are best heard when adults step back and students speak up.
  • Adults are best heard when they are straight up and explain where they’re coming from.
  • All students’ and adults’ ideas and opinions are valuable and must be heard.

Principle 3: INVESTMENT
It takes time: Investing in the future is accepting that students are leaders today.

  • Students and adults must first set their fears aside and take a chance on each other.
  • Adults must provide students with the information, education and support they will need to succeed.
  • Adults must also invest in themselves by developing their own abilities to engage students.
  • Strong partnerships require patience and courage.

Count us in: Anything done TO students should be done WITH students.

  • Adults need to support students in taking on responsibility based on what they can do, not what they have done.
  • Reflection helps everyone appreciate the importance of their education – for themselves, for their communities and for their lives.
  • Students and adults must hold each other accountable for all their decisions and actions.
  • Students and adults should continually challenge the impact of schools in their lives.

When Meaningful Student Involvement happens, student/adult partnerships are present. Students must be empowered to change schools if education is going to change. These Principles for Student/Adult Partnerships offer those guidelines.

These Principles were originally cultivated by the Youth Voice Project at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. In 1996, the Youth Voice Project gathered 500 youth from around the United States and developed these Principles. This particular version was adapted from Youth Voice Begins With YOU by K. Markendorf and N. Straw in 1996 for Project Service Leadership.


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