Meaningful Student Involvement can happen in every location throughout the education system. It is important to consider these places for many reasons, including that it promotes realistic expectations for adults and students involved. If a teacher wants to involve students in meaningful ways, they might consider their classroom as the first focus for action. That same teacher might look towards changing state education agencies by partnering with an administrator in their state capitol. There are many different locations to keep in mind.
Practically any location throughout education could meaningfully involve students, including the classroom, the counselor’s office, hallways, after school programs, district board of education offices, at the state or federal levels, and in other places that directly affect the students’ experience of education. The following list shows a variety of places where Meaningful Student Involvement can happen.
Locations for Meaningful Student Involvement
Classrooms. While student voice happens all the time in classrooms, meaningful involvement does not. Student voice happens when students talk to each other and teachers, as well as student behavior, attitudes, and actions. The student sharing their life experience is sharing student voice, just like the student cheating on a test or bullying. Meaningful Student Involvement can happen through classroom management and curriculum delivery, class evaluations, and creating the culture of classrooms.
School boardrooms. Students can present ideas, share concerns, and sit through school board meetings just like adults. When school boards involve students as representatives of their peers, they are listening to student voice. However, meaningful involvement means students having full-voting, fully participating positions on school boards. When students are partners on school boards, they are not treated tokenistically either. Instead, they are respected for their individual perspectives and not expected to represent all students.
Hallways. When a student graffitis on a wall that, “Mrs. Jones Sux!”, they are sharing student voice. So are students who gossip, form cliques, and share lockers. Meaningful Student Involvement can happen informally throughout schools all the time, with or without adult supervision and/or approval, as well. However, students can be strategically engaged as partners in fostering safe and supportive student culture as it’s expressed in hallways through nonviolent communication training, peer mediation programs, and other educational opportunities and informal positioning.
Afterschool. Meaningful Student Involvement in afterschool activities can happen in all sorts of programs, both educational and recreational, in school and otherwise. Students can plan, evaluate, facilitate, research, advocate, and more for the activities designed to serve them. As partners, they promote education for all learners.
Clubs. Clubs and other extracurricular activities give the appearance of being an appropriate outlet for student voice. However, students may glean from their experiences in clubs that their voices are at best tokenized if not entirely ignored by adults in schools. Engaging students as partners can include students earning credit for extracurricular activities or otherwise being acknowledged for their contributions, and the intentional positioning of students as partners in learning. Club activities will be integrated into learning and supported throughout the school day to be an effective avenue for Student/Adult Partnerships.
District offices. District, regional education units, and state education agencies can engage student voice throughout their processes. Grant planning, delivery, and evaluation; policy creation and evaluation; school improvement planning; building assessment; and many more locations throughout education administration are some locations.
Technology Departments. Meaningful Student Involvement in education technology begins with simply listening to students in teaching. Further, student voice can be engaged by having students teach students and teachers about technology; students maintain and develop educational technology infrastructure in schools; and students design ed tech policies on the building, district, state, and federal levels.
Playgrounds. When students are partners on playgrounds, playing and conflicts have purpose that can be captured for learning. Observing, but not facilitating, playground interactions allows adults in schools to help students navigate where and how to use their voice appropriately in interpersonal relationships, as well as schoolwide applications.
School Committees. Meaningful Student Involvement in education committees can happen within school buildings, at district and state levels, and at the federal level. Students can participate as full partners in policy-making, grant distribution, curriculum selection, teacher hiring and firing, and more.
Cafeteria. Engaging students as partners in the school cafeteria extends far beyond student complaints about food quality and fighting. Students are rallying schools to provide healthy choices, improve menu selection and pricing, and eliminate competitive foods from their buildings.
Building design. Meaningful Student Involvement can be engaged throughout building design processes and in all grade levels. From design to redesign to improvement to reconstruction, students can inform, co-design, and implement building planning in all areas.
School culture. The attitudes, policies, and structures of education may change when students are engaged as partners. Culture includes the spoken and unspoken norms in a school, as well as the beliefs, ideas, actions, and outcomes of students and adults. Engaging student voice deliberately can improve all these things for everyone in education.
There are other places where Meaningful Student Involvement happens, too. Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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