Daily Meaningful Student Involvement

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.

 

Meaningful Student Involvement is for every learner and every adult in every school, everywhere, all of the time!
Meaningful Student Involvement can happen through learning, teaching and leadership with every learner and every adult in every school, everywhere, all of the time!

 

Here are 5 ways daily meaningful student involvement can happen.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

 


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Student Voice Revolution: The Meaningful Student Involvement Handbook by Adam Fletcher http://amzn.to/2xL3obn

 

 

Guide to Students on Canadian School Boards

Canadian Student Voice Directory from SoundOut.
This is the SoundOut Students On School Boards Toolkit by Adam Fletcher. It includes research, examples and more. SoundOut offers professional development and training! For more information contact us.
  • Is it legal for students to be represented on school boards in Canada?
  • Do Canadian school boards always have student voice in mind?
  • How many students represent student voice in Canada?

For the first time, one publication is answering those questions. The SoundOut Guide to Students on Canadian School Boards is the first nationwide summary of this movement, and its now available FREE from SoundOut!

Students on School Boards Toolkit

Students on School Boards in Canada


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Elsewhere Online

Meaningful Student Involvement Idea Guide

(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.

 


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Your FREE copies of the Meaningful Student Involvement series are online at soundout.org

Habits of Meaningful Student Involvement

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.

 

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Student Voice Revolution: The Meaningful Student Involvement Handbook written by Adam Fletcher published by CommonAction Publishing in 2017.

Spectrum of Sustainability

Meaningful Student Involvement should be measured for its sustainability. The following is a tool I designed to measure sustainability in schools that I call the Spectrum of Sustainability. There are four primary ways student voice appears on this spectrum, and each is distinct.

  • ISOLATED: This means determining whether Meaningful Student Involvement is isolated as a one-time activity with low numbers of participants, singular focus of activity and few outcomes.
  • SPORADIC: Meaningful Student Involvement may be sporadic, with occasional opportunities, limited numbers and a limited scope of activity.
  • SUSTAINED: Meaningful Student Involvement could be sustained, with high infusion and every student in a school involved, with an unlimited scope of activity.
  • ESSENTIAL: Meaningful Student Involvement can also be determined to be essential, with the complete infusion of Student/Adult Partnerships throughout learning, relationships, procedures, policy and the culture of a school or education system.

Let me know what you think about the Spectrum of Sustainability. Where does YOUR school measure?

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Student Voice Revolution: The Meaningful Student Involvement Handbook written by Adam Fletcher published by CommonAction Publishing in 2017.

Student Voice Revolution Continuum

When they are involved in ways that seek to be meaningful, it is important for students and adults to examine how their involvement happens. This is a tool designed to illustrate four different positions on the spectrum towards the Student Voice Revolution. 

This is the Student Voice Continuum by Adam Fletcher for SoundOut

Each position is fluid, and in some schools all four might exist at the same time.

  • ISOLATE: Schools should consider whether their activities isolate students by creating separate student involvement opportunities that are away from adults, without the context of learning, the education system, or school improvement.
  • INVOLVE: Another pattern that may occur is to involve students, where they are deliberately partners with adults throughout schools in specific opportunities.
  • INTEGRATE: Occasionally, schools might integrate students by deliberately partnering students with adults throughout learning, the education system, and school improvement.
  • INFUSION: Perhaps the pinnacle involvement happens when the education system works to infuse students, which means that Student/Adult Partnerships are inseparably entwined with the success of education systems and cannot be extracted without causing irreparable damage.

When you’ve used this tool, let me know what you think in the comments below!

Special thanks to Wendy Lesko of the Youth Activism Project for her concept of youth infusion!

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Student Voice Revolution: The Meaningful Student Involvement Handbook written by Adam Fletcher published by CommonAction Publishing in 2017.

1972 Omaha North High School Student Assembly

North High School in Omaha, Nebraska, is my alma mater. Coincidentally, they made strides in student voice advocacy long before I ever got there. Here’s what I have uncovered.

Starting in the late 1960s, students at North High School in Omaha, Nebraska, struggled to promote student voice in school. By the time I was attending the school in the late 1980s and early 90s, there was none of that movement left. But it 1972, student advocates within the school leveraged a conversation with the principal into a plan for building-wide student representation in serious school issues, including budgeting, hiring and firing, curriculum and more.

The students’ plan entailed creating new functions for the extant student council in school, and ensuring the student council more effectively reflected the student population.

While the attached article sounds optimistic, there’s little evidence this plan was either implemented, or if it was, whether it was sustained for very long. However, this does sound a positive note for history, and implies the future is only getting better! Imagine how strong the student voice movement was in 1972 that an urban high school in Omaha, Nebraska was compelled to engage student advocates in serious problem-solving.

 

1972 Omaha student voice
This 1972 article from the Omaha World-Herald is entitled, “Student voice in the schools grows a little.”

 

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2016 SoundOut Summer Camp

The 2016 SoundOut Summer Camp is happening August 1-12 at Cleveland High School in Seattle, Washington. Over the last five years, SoundOut has partnered with Seattle Public Schools to teach more than 100 students how to change the world! This year, we’re teaching students how to TAKE CONTROL of their education and how to MAKE SCHOOLS BETTER.

 

Seattle students at the SoundOut Summer Camp
Students at the 2015 SoundOut Summer Camp at Cleveland High School in Seattle, Washington.

 

The SoundOut Summer Camp is for Cleveland students who want to improve their learning and their school. Everyday includes workshops, activities, games, videos and reading.

By participating (full attendance) in this program, students will receive 0.5 elective credit, and will be able to earn up to 20 service learning hours for participating in continuing activities throughout the school year.

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SoundOut Student Voice Series

The SoundOut Student Voice Series introduces the theory of Meaningful Student Involvement by expert practitioner Adam Fletcher, founder of SoundOut. The books in this series define terms and share mental models; detail benefits; share how to plan action; detail what action looks like; identify learning opportunities; explore how to teach students about school; examine potential barriers and how to overcome them; address assessment; and detail the ultimate outcomes of Meaningful Student Involvement. Each of these books is derived from the SoundOut Student Voice Handbook.

 

Books in this Series


Book 1. Making Meaning With Students

Making Meaning With Students - SoundOut Student Voice Series #1 by Adam F.C. Fletcher

The first book is called “Making Meaning With Students” and introduces the theory of Meaningful Student Involvement. This book proposes that all students of all ages are full humans and introduces them as active partners in learning, teaching and leadership throughout education, instead of passive recipients. It then highlights a short history of educational circumstances that have treated students as partners, and proposes there is a crisis of purpose in schools today that is solvable through shared responsibility. The book closes by summarizing how schools can change. (74 pages, 2017)

 


Book 2. Student Voice and Student Engagement

Student Voice and Student Engagement - SoundOut Student Voice Series #2 by Adam F.C. Fletcher

Book two focuses on the related notions of student voice and student empowerment. Reviewing two distinct literature fields, it summarizes a wide swath of student voice literature related to curriculum, teaching, classroom management and school reform. It then introduces student engagement as a psychological, emotional and social factor in schools that intersects with student voice. Juxtaposing Meaningful Student Involvement against both of these, this book positions the theory as a distinct, yet related, phenomenon with implications throughout the entirety of the education system. (42 pages, 2017)

 


Book 3. Frameworks for Meaningful Student Involvement

Frameworks for Meaningful Student Involvement - SoundOut Student Voice Series #3 by Adam F.C. Fletcher

The third book examines Fletcher’s distinct “frameworks of Meaningful Student Involvement,” which are formed by a series of mental models. Forming the practical basis of Meaningful Student Involvement, these models can guide practitioners and researchers alike. There are seven featured here, including student/adult partnerships; the cycle of engagement; key characteristics; the ladder of student involvement; adult perspectives of students; spheres of meaning; and a learning process. Based in the author’s experience and studies, these models can be vital tools for planning, implementation and assessment of different practices. (92 pages, 2017)

 


Book 4. Benefits of Meaningful Student Involvement

Benefits of Meaningful Student Involvement - SoundOut Student Voice Series #4 by Adam F.C. Fletcher

 

In the next book, Fletcher examines the benefits of this theory. Beginning by explicitly delineating the aims of Meaningful Student Involvement, the book then summarizes the research-based outcomes, in addition to identifying a wide variety of research that supports the theory. The impacts on learning and child and youth development are expanded on, and the book closes by exploring how this research impacts practice and is incorporated into practice. (62 pages, 2017)

 


Book 5. Planning for Meaningful Student Involvement

Planning for Meaningful Student Involvement - SoundOut Student Voice Series #5 by Adam F.C. Fletcher

 

The fifth book explores planning for Meaningful Student Involvement. The book elaborates on different roles throughout the education system to consider, as well as different kinds of students that can become meaningfully involved. Fletcher then identifies the different people and locations throughout education that can engage students as partners, including individual schools, local districts, state and provincial agencies, and federal agencies. There is a long list of issues that can be addressed through Meaningful Student Involvement, and strategies that can be considered to transform the theory into action. The book then expands on different ways to prepare individuals to become meaningfully involved, including students and adults. Places are considered to, with sections on preparing schools and the education system at large. The final section in this book encourages the reader to consider the ethical implications of Meaningful Student Involvement. (74 pages, 2017)

 


Book 6. Meaningful Student Involvement in Action

Meaningful Student Involvement in Action - SoundOut Student Voice Series Book #6 by Adam Fletcher Sasse

 

Envisioning Meaningful Student Involvement in Action can be challenging for adults who are used to today’s education system. In book six, Fletcher expands on the idea, exploring different types of action in-depth. A comprehensive picture is painted as readers look at examples of students as school researchers, educational planners, classroom teachers, learning evaluators, systemic decision-makers and education advocates. This book also addresses engaging disengaged students and gives examples of schoolwide and large scale programs. He also shares the need for healthy, safe and supportive learning environments that engender Meaningful Student Involvement for all learners. (114 pages, 2017)

 


Book 7. Learning through Student Voice

Learning through Student Voice - SoundOut Student Voice Series #7 by Adam F.C. Fletcher

Book seven explores what is learned through Meaningful Student Involvement. It discusses grade-specific approaches to learning, sharing what happens in elementary, middle and high schools, as well as what adults can learn. This book identifies different roles for teachers specifically, and summarizes a number of learning strategies and classroom structures that can be used to catalyze learning with students as partners. Fletcher then examines how to acknowledge Meaningful Student Involvement, and shows how educators can build ownership in action. (62 pages, 2017)

 


Book 8. Teaching Students about School

Teaching Students About School - SoundOut Student Voice Series #8 by Adam F.C. Fletcher

 

Teaching students about school is a key to Meaningful Student Involvement. In book eight, Fletcher shares a variety of ideas about this activity, from identifying the purpose of learning to understanding our own understanding of education. The constructivist nature of the theory is made plain as the educators are shown how to validate students’ existing knowledge about schools and how they might expand their own and their students’ understanding about the education system. Fletcher then identifies how Meaningful Student Involvement can be taught through curriculum and instruction, school leadership, building design, student assessment, building climate and culture, student support services, education governance, school/community partnerships, and parent involvement. Stories of action highlight each item. (52 pages, 2017)

 


Book 9. Barriers to Student Voice

Barriers to Student Voice - SoundOut Student Voice Series #9 by Adam F.C. Fletcher

 

The ninth book of the book proposes barriers and practical considerations affecting Meaningful Student Involvement. Fletcher details how the structure of education can be both a barrier and a solution to action. Other barriers examined in-depth include school culture, students themselves, and adults throughout the education system. The book shares a case examination for overcoming obstacles, and then details ways discrimination against students affects the meaningfulness of learning, teaching and leadership. It proposes a “student involvement gap” in addition to exploring convenient and inconvenient student voice. (76 pages, 2017)

 


Book 10. Measuring Student Voice

SoundOut Student Voice Series #10 by Adam F.C. Fletcher

 

Book ten addresses assessing meaningful student involvement. It thoughtfully examines different issues to be measured throughout activities, as well as ways to measure the effect of action on people, activities, and outcomes. This book also discusses how to sustain Meaningful Student Involvement. (56 pages, 2017)

 


Book 11. The Public Student

The Public Student - SoundOut Student Voice Series #11 by Adam F.C. Fletcher

Proposing there is an essential role for learners in democratic society, the last book, book eleven, details what Fletcher calls, “The Public Student.” This student is “any learner whose position is explicitly vital to the future of education, community and democracy.” This book shows what their jobs are, why they are important and what they look like in practice.

 


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Silencing Student Voice

Barriers to Students
Barriers to Students

To assist you in identifying and challenging adultism in schools, I’m adapting this list of common phrases educators have been conditioned to use throughout schools. They try to silence students with these phrases, especially when students challenge them, pushback or otherwise disagree.

The phrases below are often used by educators against students. Students of color, working class and poor students, queer and LGBTQI students, obese students, disabled students, and other marginalized students frequently hear these things more than other students. Silencing student voice happens a lot of different ways.

Strategies to Silence Student Voice

These silencing strategies, and others that may have been missed, can be found in any order. Students’ experiences of adults trying to silence them often go like this:

  • Adults in schools assert authority over students
  • Adults in schools question student knowledge/judgment
  • Adults in schools delegitimize student responses
  • Adults in schools delegitimize students
  • Adults in schools enforce dominant point of view
  • Adults in schools shut down debate or conversation

Following are details of what each strategy to silence students sounds like.

How Adults Assert Their Authority Over Students

  • No, but…
  • You’re wrong.
  • You’ve been wrong before.
  • That’s not true.
  • Are you sure? I’m going to Google it.
  • Really? I don’t believe it.
  • That’s never happened to me / anyone I know.
  • I’ve never seen / heard of that.

How Educators Question Student Voice

  • You don’t know that for sure.
  • You don’t know what you’re talking about.
  • That doesn’t count.
  • This is a completely different situation.
  • You’re making it about students when it’s not.

How Educators Dismiss Student Voice

  • You’re overreacting.
  • You’re blowing it out of proportion.
  • Why are you making such a big deal out of it?
  • Stop getting so emotional.
  • Don’t tell me you’re upset about this.
  • You’re getting angry /raising your voice / shouting again.
  • Not everything is about…(structural oppression goes here).
  • Stop trying to make it about…(structural oppression goes here).
  • You always say that.
  • I knew you’d do this.
  • Can’t we talk about something else?

How Educators Delegitimize Students

  • (Rude laughter)
  • (to someone else) She’s crazy. Don’t listen to her.
  • Why can’t you just relax?
  • Can’t you take a joke?
  • I’m just joking.
  • You’re so serious all the time.
  • You’re so angry all the time.
  • You have no sense of humor.

How Educators Enforce Dominance

  • You have to accept that…
  • You must agree that…
  • It’s obvious that…
  • You must be stupid to think that…
  • Everybody knows…
  • When I was your age…

How Educators Shut Down Conversations

  • This is a stupid / irrelevant / useless conversation.
  • Why are we still having this conversation?
  • It’s not important.
  • Not everything is about you.
  • You’re making it worse by talking about it.
  • Why don’t you just give it up already?
  • I’m done.
  • Are we done?
  • Are you happy now?
  • I’m gonna hang up.
  • I don’t debate on this topic.
  • I’m not having this conversation.
  • I said I was sorry! Isn’t that enough?

This post was adapted from here with permission of the original authors.

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