There are many aims of Meaningful Student Involvement. The sixth aim is acknowledging the experiences, perspectives and knowledge of all students. Using sustainable, powerful and purposeful school-oriented roles, acknowledge the experience, perspectives and knowledge of all students.
Aim 6: Acknowledge Students
Instead of creating special, one-time opportunities where student voice can misrepresent the multiple perspectives of diverse student populations, Meaningful Student Involvement charges educators with the responsibility of engaging all students in dynamic roles with the on-going task of creating and fostering success in schools.
Traditional AND Nontraditional
There is space for both traditional student leaders and nontraditional student leaders. As Christensen wrote,
“All opportunities for leadership and contribution must be encouraged and embraced if schools are going to utilize students as resources for leadership.” (Christensen, 1997)
Both traditional and nontraditional student leaders have excellent attributes that are relevant to Meaningful Student Involvement. However, there is more space than that. Every single student of every age in each grade throughout every school should be meaningfully involved throughout their education and the entirety of the education system. Different from throwing the doors open and posting flyers throughout the hallways saying, “Come One, Come All,” this requires deliberately reaching out to diverse students and diverse adults throughout the education system.
Quotas Aren’t The Point
Diversity does not mean setting quotas of student athletes, student leaders, honor-roll students, class clowns, faux nerds, real nerds, cheerleaders and longhaired students—although it does not exclude that, either. In order to practically engage every student as a partner in education, there needs to be given practical, pragmatic efforts to reach students across racial, cultural, gender, religious, academic, and economic barriers with emphasis that lasts throughout Meaningful Student Involvement.
Starting in the youngest grades, all students can experience opportunities to experience the Cycle of Engagement in action. Researching education, planning schools, teaching, evaluating, decision-making and advocating should be woven throughout their educational experiences. Rather than standing up only for themselves and their own interests, students should have opportunities to expand their perspectives by getting to know, tolerate, embrace and engage diversity among their peers and with adults throughout the education system.
Students As Makers
Part of this acknowledgment is learning to see students as the makers and builders of knowledge, and adults as the facilitators and stewards of learning. This repositioning challenges the entrenched beliefs many educators have and should not be taken lightly. However, it should not be dismissed, either. Its through this mutual challenge that educators, administrators and other adults throughout schools can activate and sustain Meaningful Student Involvement.
Questions to Ask
- Have you ever asked students their perspectives on major issues in education, such as school funding, testing and assessment, and teaching styles?
- Did you lead them, or simply let them share their own thoughts?
- Do your students opinions about education differ from your own in substantive ways? Why or why not?
- Can you do anything to acknowledge student perspectives besides simple verbal cues?