Meaningful Student Involvement can teach students that they can advocate, nurture and sustain a school culture that promotes all students, builds Student/Adult Partnerships and infuses the frameworks throughout the education system. (Wright S. , 2013; Alvermann & Eakle, 2007) School culture is made of four elements: Values, norms, language and symbols.
Students should be able to identify, critique and share the clear mission of their school culture. Student/Adult Partnerships can create the project to do this, including surveying teachers, parents and other students. They can then collaborate to develop a plan for designating time and resources, and facilitating professional development and student training to build capacity. You can begin identifying what school culture is by asking these questions of students and adults throughout the school community:
- What is the spoken and unspoken language used throughout our school?
- What symbols define and deflate our school?
- Which values are associated with our school? What values do we aspire to?
- How are the named and unnamed norms of our school affecting us all?
Data points taken from the research done earlier can help quantify the current school culture and areas for improvement. Students can learn about school culture by talking with their peers and adults about their school’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as barriers to improving the culture. They can also learn with adults how to find assistance to break down barriers and address the weaknesses.
Understanding School Culture
School culture takes it form in many things, including opinions, ideas, attitudes, feelings and actions that conspire among students, between students and adults, and among adults. (Kipp, Quinn, Lancaster, & et al, 2014) The relationships between people matter, whether they are traditional perspectives of students, as described in the frameworks of Meaningful Student Involvement, or otherwise.
Actions that support a vision for school culture vary can focus on communication, team-building and community building, strategic problem-solving and shared leadership. I have labeled these as convenient student voice. Actions that weaken or act as a barrier to school culture can include bullying, cheating, abusive student-adult relationships, and smothering student free speech. I have referred to these as inconvenient student voice. (Fletcher, 2012)
Where Can Student Voice Fit?
One of the largely missing elements in many discussions about school culture is student voice. Student voice, which was introduced early in this book as, “any expression of any learner, anywhere, anytime related to education.” (Fletcher, 2014) This means that what a student says counts as student voice; what a student does is student voice, and; the meanings behind what students say and do are student voice. From this perspective, student voice is clearly the main driver behind school culture. Meaningful Student Involvement embraces this reality by melding together student voice, responsibility and interdependence, and fostering Student/Adult Partnerships throughout the education system.