Student Behavior and Meaningful Student Involvement

SoundOut workshop in Cheney, Washington
Students participate in a SoundOut workshop about student voice and classroom behavior in Cheney, Washington.

Student behavior and classroom management are consistently important issues to educators and students in the area of Meaningful Student Involvement, although for different reasons.

What It Is

Classroom teachers often report they want to use meaningful involvement as an incentive to make students behave better; students often report that if they were meaningfully involved, classroom behavior would not be an issue.

When considering the variety of issues that are tied together within student behavior, it may seem important to address it through school improvement approaches. However, what Meaningful Student Involvement promotes is consideration and understanding of the contexts of challenges in schools. This includes the overall issue of student engagement and the different ways different students are engaged throughout learning, teaching and leadership.

How It Happens

There are many issues to consider when thinking about student behavior:

  • What makes student behavior right or wrong? Who determines what is right or wrong?
  • What happens when students behave well? What happens when they aren’t doing well?
  • Should students sacrifice their happiness for good behavior?
  • When we expect students to behave well, do we limit expectations for them in other ways?
  • What informal rules do we expect students to follow?

When educators use rules arbitrarily and without learning objectives, students often see behavior as an artificial measure for their behavior. Similarly, when behavior is rewarded and made an example of, students can see it as a measuring stick for their intelligence and ability.

Meaningful Student Involvement can position students as co-learners with educators, allowing everyone in the classroom to learn and grow together. Student/Adult Partnerships in all grade levels can explore:

  • What counts as “good”?
  • Should we behave “good”?
  • Does “good” behavior earn us the outcome we want?
  • What outcomes can “bad” behavior get us?
  • What happens when two students can’t be judged by the same standards?
  • Can we learn our way to good behavior, or is it something we either do or don’t do?

With this type of inquiry-based learning through student behavior, classrooms and schools prove to be vibrant, vital and ever relevant for learners of all types, including the historically disengaged. Meaningful Student Involvement can allow the traditionally static relationships between learners and teachers to become more elastic, and that sense of ability to change everyone’s learning experiences, including students who traditionally get “in trouble”.

Where Meaningful Student Involvement Fits

Infusing Meaningful Student Involvement into classroom management has become a challenge in many classrooms. Mark Barnes, an author and the creator of the Results Only Learning Environment (ROLE) method, shares three simple steps for teachers:

  1. Create a workshop environment in your classroom that encourages the pursuit of learning and allows little time for disruption.
  2. Set the tone from the beginning of the school year by eliminating all discussion of rules and consequences by explaining that your learning space is built on mutual respect and the quest for knowledge.
  3. Keep activities engaging and behavior will never be an issue!

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