Bear Valley High School

2013AssessthruMSIStudents who are examining the very purpose and types of school improvement in their schools may be experiencing Meaningful Student Involvement.

The principal at Big Bear High School in Bear Valley, California, wanted to explore student views of learning, so she started a student-research program. The group focused on the questions, “Does our school restructuring activities really make fundamental changes in the learning process? Does all of our work have an impact in the classroom?”

As part of the yearlong study, the student researchers participated in a twice-weekly course that focused on their work, and consequently, the students became the driving force in the data collection and analyses. Students conceived the methods used and led the data collection work.

In their study, the student researchers

  • Collected data from 200 of the school’s 1,600 students
  • Worked with 27 classes
  • Conducted focus group discussions with 150 students
  • Presented their findings to professional researchers from across the country

The findings showed that students define success in school many different ways, with a strong theme focusing on students’ diligence and balance. Students recognized the importance of motivation, good study habits, a balance between school and work, involvement in school life, being organized, and simply putting forth the effort to succeed.

The student researchers also explored learning outside of school, how students learn best, and the school’s affect on student learning.The project coordinators state that,

“…the lessons of this project occurred on two levels: what the students, staff, and parents learned from the data, and what we all (adults) learned about engaging students as researchers in a topic that is relevant to them.” (Kushman & Shanessy, 1997)


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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

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