Review: Putting Students at the Centre in Education Reform

Originally published in Meaningful Student Involvement Research Guide by Adam Fletcher (2004) Olympia, WA: SoundOut.

“Putting students at the centre in education reform” By B. Levin. Published in 1999 in International Journal of Educational Change.

Putting Students argues that in order for school reform to be effective, students need to participate in the school improvement process. A foundation and framework are explored that engage students in defining, shaping, managing and implementing school improvement practices.

This paper offers a concise, detailed exploration of the principles and rationale that support student involvement from a practical perspective that focuses on progressive activities. After exploring the recent history of student involvement, the author provides the following arguments for increasing student involvement:

  • Effective implementation of change requires participation and buy-in from all those involved; students no less than teachers;
  • Students have unique knowledge and perspectives that can make reform efforts more successful and improve implementation;
  • Students’ views can help mobilize staff and parent opinion in favor of meaningful reform;
  • Constructivist learning, which is increasingly important to high standards reforms, requires a more active student role in schooling;
  • Students are the producers of school outcomes, so their involvement is fundamental to all improvement (p3).

Levin explains that the first three are related to organizational health; the last two have to do specifically with how learning occurs. He then continues to carefully detail the diverse literature supporting his arguments by including specific sources from the areas of education, psychology, sociology and business.

In a section exploring the role of the student in school improvement, Levin provides three steps schools should consider:

  1. Involve several students in formal management processes;
  2. Provide training and support students, and;
  3. Ask students to organize their own parallel process of discussion of change that could bring many more students into the deliberative process.

Levin makes a special note that educators should engage students in all grade levels in these efforts and not limit participation to high school students.

Putting Students provides a concise, deliberate rationale for meaningful student involvement while offering broad resources and diverse thinking for school improvement. The author situates student voice as a key component among current education reform practices and literature.

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