As the banner of student voice is unfurled in an increasing number of education arenas across the U.S., we’re seeing young people stand up in unprecedented numbers to demand what is rightfully theirs: High-quality education. Here are 30 student/adult partnership activities for schools.
Yet, just as this movement is beginning to pick up steam, its getting derailed from its true potential, which is student integration. We have to explore the realities of student/adult partnerships, and this article is designed to do just that. Students need new roles throughout education. Instead of being passive recipients of adult-driven education schemes, students need to be active partners in schools.
30 Student/Adult Partnership Activities
- Build student power by teaching them about multiple perspectives regarding issues in education
- Engage students as facilitators to train educators about the difference between Students as Recipients and Students as Partners
- Teach students about the education system, including what it is, how it operates, who is in it, where it fails and when it succeeds
- Develop opportunities for students to share student voice, especially unfettered concerns, about schools and education with adults
- Create formal positions for students to occupy throughout education
- Engaging students as partners, create curriculum for your classes that teaches them to identify, plan, critique and challenge educational practices and leadership activities
- Co-design learning plans with every student
- Assign all students a mentor to introduce them to the culture and traditions of the school.
- Activate student planning power in year-long school day calendars that affect them and others
- Engage students as school designers and curriculum reformers
- Encourage nontraditional student leaders to co-teach regular classes with adults
- Position students as education budget specialists and partner them with adult decision-makers to make more effective fiscal choices for school systems and individual buildings.
- Students teaching classrooms can reach their peers more effectively and give other learners opportunities to see themselves as teachers and become active learners
- Partner student teams to teach courses
- Acknowledge students teaching other students in with classroom credit
- Co-create and facilitate professional development with students to teach teachers about students
- Assign students to create meaningful classroom evaluations of themselves, the curriculum, classroom climate and teachers
- Partner with students to create building-wide evaluations of classes, curriculum, teaching styles, and school culture
- Train students to evaluate teacher performance
- Create student-led parent-teacher conferences
- Create student-inclusive curriculum committees including critique, review, selection and design
- Give students on school boards full-voting positions
- Create equal student representation with enough positions for students to be equally represented in every education committee and meeting
- Help students create and enforce behavior boundaries, expectations and outcomes for the entire school
- Partner with students in school personnel decisions
- Work with students to organize public campaigns for school improvement
- Create opportunities for students to fully join all existing school committees
- Give students data and information so they understand why and how schools are changing
- Allow students to educate policy-makers about challenges in schools
- Encourage students with formal and informal opportunities to present their concerns
The very best thing about all this? Its all backed up by research and practice from across the United States and around the world! For more than a decade I’ve been finding examples, collecting tools, and sharing best practices and findings from researchers, teachers, and students.
Avoiding Adult-Driven Student Voice
Wrangled into adult-driven student voice, students are often only asked about things that adults are concerned with in schools. Like never before, we can hear students’ opinions about topics like the achievement gap, charter schools, privatization, rural education, violence and safety, and year-around schools. They’re rallying outside state capitals, speaking in school board meetings, and demanding change specifically from students’ perspectives.
However, many of these perspectives are blinded at best.
Many of the very organizations, programs, and agencies that are engaging student voice are oftentimes blindsiding their targets. Without concern for authenticity, ability, or desire, these student voice activities are focused on listening to “students in the raw”, meaning learners who haven’t been taught about what they’re trying to change.
Programs often remove students from their communities or schools, sit them in a room, and drill into them the importance of an issue that adults have determined they need to hear student voice focused on. They teach them the adults’ perspectives, or they teach them nothing at all. After that, they ask students to stand up for that issue, and with or without being conscious of it, students eagerly comply.