What It May Look Like
Imagine a school where democracy is more than a buzzword, and involvement is more than attendance. It is a place where all adults and students interact as co-learners and leaders, and where students are encouraged to speak out about their schools. Picture all adults actively valuing student engagement and empowerment, and all students actively striving to become more engaged and empowered. Envision school classrooms where teachers place the experiences of students at the center of learning, and education boardrooms where everyone can learn from students as partners in school change. (Fletcher, 2005a)
Components of Whole School Meaningful Student Involvement
Whole school Meaningful Student Involvement happens when every student in every classroom experiences Student/Adult Partnerships throughout their educational experience. Following are some components that may be included:
- Classrooms: Classrooms that embody Meaningful Student Involvement can look many different ways. However, certain attitudes and characteristics soak through these places. The main thing that is evident are Student/Adult Partnerships, which every student and every adult involved in a learning environment can experience.
- Teaching: Teaching is more than methods or attendance. Instead, its a combination of intention, ability and outcomes, and everything in between. Meaningful Student Involvement happens when all of these reflect the Principles of Student/Adult Partnerships and the Elements of Meaningful Student Involvement.
- Assessment: Rather than simply looking at the outcomes of teaching, learning and leadership, assessment should reflective a formative approach. Students should be at the center of their own assessment, too, with explicit instruction and direct opportunities to evaluate themselves, their peers, their classes, their schools and the entirety of the education system.
- School Culture: The shared behaviors, actions and outcomes of students, teachers, support staff, leadership, parents and others form a school’s culture. Committing to engaging students as partners requires a high level of whole school commitment. Every partner in schools should be aware of these commitments and should demonstrate a high level of their own commitment, too.
- School Climate: While some people have innate amounts of social and emotional intelligence, what they often sense in education is the school climate. ALL people are affected by school climate, which is made of the common feelings, attitudes, opinions, thoughts and beliefs of everyone within the school. If students are visibly disengaged, that is because educators, parents or others are too; vice versa is true as well.
- School Committees: Comprised of various people from throughout the learning environment for a variety of purposes, school committees can address dozens of longterm topics, or many immediate issues facing a school. These bodies should make student involvement a high priority, deliberately nurturing opportunities, education and other avenues for Meaningful Student Involvement. With adjustments, they can be among the most direct ways every student can be involved.
- Extracurricular Activities: Athletics, clubs and other activities that happen outside structured classroom time provide a lot of opportunities for Meaningful Student Involvement. None of them is the exclusive domain for Student/Adult Partnerships though, including student government, honors clubs and ethnic clubs. All of those are opportunities, but so is being a library aide, peer mediator and even JROTC drill team member.
- School Leadership: Principals, headmasters, assistance managers and other adult figures can foster Meaningful Student Involvement in many ways, including all the ones shared above and others. In context, Principals’ Advisory Teams, professional development, student body wide surveys, student training and other tools can foster Student/Adult Partnerships.
- School Rules: All schools are governed by laws, policies and regulations from beyond them. However, they also develop their own rules. Meaningful Student Involvement can be infused throughout these rules, reflected in their structure and purpose as well as their creation and implementation. Since everyone in a school follows the rules, this is a great way to impact all students in every school.