Promoting Meaningful Student Involvement, Student Voice and Student Engagement
Author: 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
In a special in-school program, the SoundOut Student Voice Summit engages groups of traditional and non-traditional student leaders and focuses their energy, knowledge and ideas on how students can improve schools.
Using a series of hands-on, interactive activities, students share their concerns about school and ideas for what can change. Through skill-building and knowledge-sharing exercises, students also increase their sense of efficacy and their desire to be active agents of positive education transformation.
Afterward, plans will be implemented, each school will create a report, and San Rafael City Schools will celebrate the outcomes locally, and the results will be shared internationally by Adam Fletcher.
Between 30-100 traditional and non-traditional student leaders elementary, middle or senior high schools
A smaller group of highly supportive, engaged, and sustainably involved adult allies, including teachers, building leaders, parents, and/or district officials.
Each school identifies student/adult partner teams
Every day, every student all around the world should experience meaningful involvement. It doesn’t have to be special, unique, different or exceptional. It also doesn’t have to be a standardized experience.
Here are 5 ways daily meaningful student involvement can happen.
Morning meetings—Every morning, there are grade school teachers that host morning meetings with their classes. In the middle and high school levels, these could be adapted as mini-meetings, or even interpreted as advisory classes. Morning meetings can give students space to share their ideas and knowledge about classes and school, and can open dialogue to promote student-adult partnerships.
Advisory—Research supports student advisory classes. These can be innovative, creative spaces where teachers can re-imagine traditional relationships between teachers and students, and among students themselves. Many schools have used advisory classes to build communication, solve problems, and establish a positive, supportive school climate.
Student voice—For a long time, student voice was treated only as a way to listen to students in big school decision-making, and as the vehicle for making students read school newspapers. However, today we understand that student voice should be integrated throughout teaching, learning, curriculum and evaluation matters. When students see themselves and hear their voices in everything taught throughout schools, schools improve.
Restorative justice—More than simply being a discipline procedure, restorative justice is a new approach to establishing, sustaining and re-inventing school culture. Students work as partners with adults in schools to communicate, solve problems and establish a nonviolent, nonhierarchal way of being. It requires a day-by-day commitment by everyone though, and is maintained through constant adherence and frequent renewal.
Service learning—Infusing the positive, powerful potential of students throughout school improvement to foster successful learning and teaching can happen through the dynamic approach known as service learning. Think of project based learning focused on others’ well-being instead of our own, helping to lift up schools and make them better for everyone! Embedded in every curricular area are thousands of examples, with many dedicated to making schools better places.
Meaningful student involvement shouldn’t be an exceptional experience for just a few students in particular schools reflecting certain circumstances; instead, it should be the daily reality for every learner in every school, everywhere, all of the time.
(10 pgs, 2002-2015, FREE) Focusing on practical implementation of meaningful involvement, this brief guide is for students, teachers, principals and others who want something immediate and powerful to happen.
Fostering the attitudes needed to support Meaningful Student Involvement requires intention and action. The following attitudes form the habits of Meaningful Student Involvement. They reflect the highest attitudes and best potential individual habits required. In order to support every student in every school becoming meaningfully involved throughout every facet of the educational system, every part of the education system from kindergarten classrooms to the president of the country should foster these habits among students and adults alike.
Habits of Meaningful Student Involvement
Trust: Mutual trust is required, including trusting oneself and trusting others, whether its students trusting other students, students trusting adults, adults trusting students, or adults trusting other adults.
Inclusiveness: Intentionally reaching out to every student and every adult throughout a school or district or state agency should be a habit of all meaningful involvement.
Commitment: Everyone shares a commitment to build and support Student/Adult Partnerships for every student.
Reciprocity: Forming a habit of sharing with others what is shared with you is a key to meaningful involvement.
Challenging: Students should take on challenges throughout the educational process and across the entire education system by partnering with adults.
Equality: No student is more deserving or naturally needing meaningfulness in education than any other student.
Grit: Working hard to improve schools benefits each of us and every generation after us.
Learning: We learn valuable lessons we would not otherwise by serving our schools, communities and society at large through Meaningful Student Involvement.
Equity: Adults should not do anything to or for students; they should do everything with students, or create opportunities for students to do it on their own.
Transformation: Schools are places where students will continually grow and change, and because of this they will continually grow and change in order to support students. They will do this through Meaningful Student Involvement.
Humility: Students and adults are humble and accept that there are things about themselves and what they do in schools that can be transformed through Meaningful Student Involvement.
Accepting: Creating space for students to provide critiques instead of criticism requires adults become accepting of difference and acknowledging of ongoing change.
These attitudes are vital for individuals the education system to adopt, including students and all adults no matter what their roles. Our attitudes inform the deep beliefs every person has about teaching, learning and leadership—no matter what their age. These beliefs drive student and adult decisions and behavior in schools. The attitudes behind Meaningful Student Involvement are about looking at education in terms of creating value for everyone involved instead of adults alone. This is an engaging and necessary approach in today’s dynamic society that continues to transform every single day.