There are several aims of Meaningful Student Involvement. The fifth aim is to provide students and educators with sustainable, responsive, and systemic approaches to engaging all students throughout education. As our society constantly changes, so must schools.
Aim 5: Provide Systemic Responses
Meaningful Student Involvement transforms schools into places where students can make significant contributions alongside educators and administrators. This activity takes place within an educational context where adults and young people are equal contributors to a continuous learning process focusing on school change.
Whole Student, Whole School
Sustainability is frequently thought about in an ecological sense: We must protect, preserve and ensure the health and wellbeing of our environment in order to secure a successful future. The same is true of Meaningful Student Involvement. The environment students learn in—including the places, people, activities, cultures and outcomes—must be thought about in a global sense focused on the preservation of assets while eliminating the bad things that adversely affect learners. Since they strike the proactive, positive relationships that embody healthy education, Student/Adult Partnerships are the hallmark of sustainable schools.
Responsive approaches to education require constant and deliberate innovation, transformation and critical thinking. The challenge of responsiveness is that it cannot merely come from educators who are responding to their own concerns. As the focus of education, schools should be responsive to students, too. This does not mean giving in to every single concern students have about their peers, teaching, the curriculum, the climate, or schools overall. However, it does mean acknowledging every single thing students say. Adults habitually qualify, negate, deny, or silence students’ concerns. In order to meet this aim of Meaningful Student Involvement, this must change.
Meaningful Student Involvement aims to ensure the systemic transformation of education in order to ensure successful Student/Adult Partnerships. Examining the entirety of the education system for locations where Meaningful Student Involvement can happen is essential. Everyone from students through the federal government’s leader of education should focus on engaging students as partners in their efforts, no matter what they are. Aside from individually engaging students, educators and administrators should ensure they are ensuring Meaningful Student Involvement throughout policy and practice as well by actively creating roles, infusing opportunities and securing their colleagues’ investment for engaging students as partners.
The final requirement for this aim is constant change. Emerging from the notion that Meaningful Student Involvement is never done, this concept challenges students and educators alike to work together to ensure evolutionary action. Given the transformative nature of society, it is essential that education keep pace. This can only happen when Meaningful Student Involvement is invented, examined and re-invented for every successive generation of learners and educators.
As Paulo Freire wrote in Pedagogy of the Oppressed,
“Those who authentically commit themselves to the people must re-examine themselves constantly. This conversion is so radical as not to allow for ambivalent behavior… Conversion to the people requires a profound rebirth. Those who undergo it must take on a new form of existence; they can no longer remain as they were.” (1973)
This unwillingness to “remain as they were” is what differentiates Student/Adult Partnerships from regular student-adult relationships. These partnerships inherently challenge the status quo in schools, and more importantly, throughout society. They demand both partners actively see each other anew by allowing the other to make mistakes, learn and grow from their interactions and partnership. Adults who are incapable of allowing students be different than their expectations are incapable of Meaningful Student Involvement. No adult in the education system should be so intransigent.
Questions to Ask
- What are the barriers you can envision to meaningfully involving students throughout the education system?
- How do your own beliefs narrow the possibilities for Student/Adult Partnerships?
- Do opportunities to transform your practice in education excite you or challenge you?
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- Roles for Students throughout the Education System
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