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2013LearningthruMSI

Meaningful Student Involvement encourages, fosters and sustains learning among adults—including teachers, principals, counselors and other education staff—as much as students themselves.

Required Learning

It requires educators, administrators, and other school staff to be introduced and sustained in their effort to engage students as partners throughout education. Active engagement for all learners is a goal of many educators; however, the ability to incorporate Meaningful Student Involvement is a learned disposition and skill. Meaningful Student Involvement also supports adults as they learn to engage the knowledge, perspectives, and experience of students in diverse education settings.

This is about culture change as much as structure change. A challenge of that is that schools aren’t isolated—they do not exist in a vacuum. No matter how educators treat a student inside one classroom, for one period, students still leave the classroom and school to return to communities where they are routinely excluded from decision-making and actions that affect them, and segregated from the adults around them.

Fostering Champions, Ambassadors and Advocates

One of the essential roles to beginning Meaningful Student Involvement is that of the champion to get started. The champion has to be an adult who can work with students as partners. That is because the role of the adult is inherently longer lasting than the role of any single student.

Thinking about where to start varies according to the role adults play within a school. Every adult in every school can have healthy, meaningful interactions with students. Janitors, media specialists, assistant principals, and coaches can forge meaningfulness by acting with respect, making meaningful investments in students, and committing to communicate clearly with students.

For teachers, curriculum is a great place to start. Building meaningfulness into a curricular approach so it embodies Meaningful Student Involvement allows teachers to reflect students’ daily personal lives and connects learning to real-world outcomes. Rather than assuming students have never experienced meaningfulness, teachers can help them plumb their school experience through critical reflection and meaningful connections.

Building administrators, school counselors, administrative staff, and other school support positions face a different picture. These professionals can strive to infusing the Cycle of Engagement from Part Three into every interaction they have with students. Building the Cycle into the routine of every adult in schools can change building culture. In turn, this contributes to transforming education. The most important thing any adult in schools can do is to envision students as partners, and then act that way.

Ways to Learn

There are a variety of ways adults can learn about Meaningful Student Involvement in action. Engaging students in planning by infusing students into classroom, club, and school planning is one avenue. Adults can learn about Student/Adult Partnerships, and how to listen to student feedback. When they are involved in researching schools with students, adults can help facilitate participatory action research focusing on classroom and school improvement. Through this they can learn about the Participatory Action Research process, and how students can lead assessment. Meaningful Student Involvement in teaching can help teachers learn to build students’ ability to self-teach and facilitate peer education. They can learn peer education techniques, and how to provide coaching to learners rather than traditional teaching.

Teachers facilitating authentic student-designed evaluation processes for themselves, peers, and adults in school learn evaluation methods and how to listen to student feedback. By meaningfully involving students in decision-making, adults can partner up with student groups to ensure consistent student positions on school improvement committees. This can help reinforce adults’ ability to facilitate large groups and plan large events outside the classroom. Adults in schools can learn advocacy and coalition building skills through Meaningful Student Involvement. Each of these activities can reinforce what Student/Adult Partnerships are and how they functionally operate.

More Info

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Published by Adam Fletcher

Adam is the founding director of SoundOut. An author, speaker and consultant, he has worked with K-12 schools, districts, nonprofits and others for more than 15 years. Learn more about him at http://soundout.org/Adam

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