Grade-Specific Approaches to Meaningful Student Involvement

We must consider approaches to Meaningful Student Involvement that are academically and developmentally appropriate for students of different abilities.

Student voice is always a force for changing the climate of a learning environment, good or otherwise. Students have back and forth exchanges throughout the course of a school day, checking in about each others’ emotions and ideas, experiences and knowledge about school, learning, teaching, classrooms, curricula, behaviors, attitudes, and more. Imagine this across a schoolwide population ranging from 250 to 2,500 students, and it becomes relatively easy to see how student voice informs school climate. Student voice also never stays the same, and it should never be static. As bell hooks wrote,

“The engaged voice must never be fixed and absolute but always changing, always evolving in dialogue with a world beyond itself.” (hooks, 1994)

Unfortunately, it is the tendency of adults to fix student voice into one position. That alone makes it vital for educators to embrace Meaningful Student Involvement from the youngest ages to let students inform their pedagogy, school climate and culture, academic performance and achievement, and school improvement.

These opportunities also offer the potential to create and sustain collaborative learning communities where students, teachers, administrators, school staff and community advocates can continuously learn from each other. Acknowledging that this does not necessarily happen naturally in many classrooms, several “Skill Building Topics” are proposed. Topics are meant to serve as complementary building blocks that will enhance students’ and educators’ ability to experience Meaningful Student Involvement in a variety of settings.

Meaningful Student Involvement demands more than time from educators, more than money from administrators, and more than instantaneous results from students. Instead, Meaningful Student Involvement calls for efforts to improve the organization of schooling and the effectiveness of instruction to actively engage and authorize students to transform their learning communities. The attitudes of students, educators, parents and community members must also transform. All members of the learning community must see students as valid contributors to school improvement.

Many people benefit from Meaningful Student Involvement. The following section connects a variety of examples of Meaningful Student Involvement with the skills needed, and the possible learning connections with a variety of participants. This allows students and educators to identify their common purposes, and to create the space that both students and educators need to share knowledge, experiences and perspectives as both learners and teachers. In order to illustrate how meaningful involvement can happen throughout schools, each table presents a different grade level.

The following section also addresses adults specifically, illustrating how integral allies are to Meaningful Student Involvement. The suggested activities and topics described for all participant groups offer opportunities for reciprocal learning through leadership: that is, adults role-modeling for students, students role-modeling for other students, and students and adults learning from each other.

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