Review: Student Leadership and Restructuring: A Case Study

Originally published in Meaningful Student Involvement Research Guide by Adam Fletcher (2004) Olympia, WA: SoundOut.

Review of “Student Leadership and Restructuring: A Case Study” by C. Reed in 1998. Unpublished dissertation.

Student Leadership begins by exploring the irony of how schools encourage students to take a leadership role in student activities and participate in social change work through community service, yet rarely considers engaging students in school change.

The study examines one school where students were engaged in dialogues with educators and administrators about school change.

Through interviews, focus groups, documentation of meetings and activities, document analysis, and the involvement of students as researchers, this research considered the following questions:

  • Roles that students played within the school and why;
  • Who the students were that tended to get involved;
  • How students were involved in school reform efforts;
  • What was being done to build capacity for student involvement, and;
  • How students, teachers, and administrators viewed this involvement.

Student Leadership details many important findings. Reed found that there are natural tensions between students, teachers, and administrators based on roles and role expectations.

Another important discovery showed that the building leader’s vision and fundamental beliefs set the tone for student involvement.

Reed learned that five factors influence student involvement:

  • Student readiness
  • Apathy
  • Coordination
  • Teachers’ readiness
  • Clearly understood limitations for students

Finally, and importantly, this research proved that Meaningful Student Involvement can offer a variety of benefits, including keen insight for educators, energy and motivation to keep things moving, heightened “buy in” for school goals, increased tolerance between diverse student groups and students and adults, and the experience of true empowerment by student researchers.

Many students want to have a voice in what happens regarding their education, and Student Leadership proves that contention.

Throughout this report, students exhibit a variety of important knowledge and opinions to share about curriculum and instruction and are vocal about academic and social injustices. Many of these views challenge teacher and administrator thinking about what occurs in school.

Student Leadership illustrates that while meaningful student involvement is not a panacea for every school’s problems, it can lay the groundwork for better relationships throughout schools.

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Review: Learning from Student Voices

Originally published in Meaningful Student Involvement Research Guide by Adam Fletcher (2004) Olympia, WA: SoundOut.

Review of “Learning from Student Voices,” Theory into Practice 43(2) edited by P. Oldfather in 1995.

This edition of Theory into Practice offers a comprehensive scan of research surrounding Meaningful Student Involvement by highlighting what student voice is, and how it can be engaged throughout schools.

The authors cover a variety of topics and offer rationale for listening to students, barriers to student involvement, engaging “student voice” in constructivist classrooms, issues of social justice and authenticity, and how pre-service teachers can – and must – learn from students.

Throughout this edition the authors offer a variety of perspectives on student voice, offering optimistic predictions, detailed accounts, thoughtful reflections, and cautionary criticisms that strengthen the argument for meaningful student involvement.

The stories told here encourage educators to seriously engage students in changing classrooms and teaching.

“Learning from children’s voices allows us to know a deeper level of who children are as learners and, because we have that knowledge, to expand and enrich our sense of what it means to teach” (p130).

The same journal also warns that teachers

“must resist the temptation to glamorize student voices, and recognize that the multiple voices that students bring to the classroom, while potentially possessing some elements of resistance and transformation, are likely to be imbued with status quo values” (O’Loughlin 1995 p112).

In editing this edition, professor Penny Oldfather sought to, “reexamine fundamental assumptions about the purposes of education, the nature of knowledge, the processes of coming to know, and the roles of students as the principal stakeholders in education” (p86).

According to Oldfather, various forms of constructivism, critical theory, and feminist thought influenced these articles. Throughout the journal, educational research was scrutinized using the interpretive methodologies of students’ perceptions.

“This analysis gives further support to the thesis that there is much to be learned from students’ voices” (p86).

Articles explore case studies and critical theories, encouraging the reader to explore practice and examine their own assumptions simultaneously.

The final chapters detail two experiences of students listening to other students’ experiences. In the first of the two, students participate in a multi-year research project exploring teachers’ perceptions about student motivation to learn.

The last chapter details a conversation with several students who originally participated in a structured students-as-researchers project, then continued their study after the program. This conversation captures their multi-faceted thoughts about research, student involvement, and motivation.

This edition of Theory into Practice offers a comprehensive examination of all aspects of meaningful student involvement, particularly exploring specific roles for students as agents of school change.

This exploration of the barriers to involvement, multiple identities, and the purpose of “student voice” is centrally important to the library of information supporting meaningful student involvement.

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Review: FORUM Special Issue on Student Voice

Originally published in Meaningful Student Involvement Research Review by Adam Fletcher (2004) Olympia, WA: SoundOut.

Review of FORUM Special issue on student voice. Edited by M. Fielding. Published in 2001 as Forum 43(2).

This edition of Forum addresses multiple issues inherent in Meaningful Student Involvement, and challenges previous work on students’ power, student engagement and student advocacy for school change.

The topics cover a variety of areas including democratic practices in school, the validity and authenticity of student voice, the multiplicity of students’ experiences, and the authority of students in school.

The authors in this journal reflect the growing interest in student voice from a variety of perspectives, including those of current students, former students, professors, researchers and educators. Careful navigation of the topics provides a roadmap of Meaningful Student Involvement by examining classroom-centered activities and school governance programs.

Authors from the United Kingdom, Chile and the United States detail their experiences and challenges through critical lenses. They also provide reflections on how their research could have been improved.

The findings are as diverse as the writers. In the first three articles, the student writers share their perspectives on the necessity of “student voice.” They identify different ways to infuse students into the curriculum-making process through team-based learning and engaging students as researchers.

The fourth chapter is one of three case studies included. The author explores how a student research program progressed from viewing students as data sources to students learning about and conducting the research. Issues raised throughout the remainder of the journal raise several vital questions, including:

  • Do schools actively deny the creativity and responsibility student have within them to change schools?
  • How and what can educators learn from students whose voices they don’t want to hear?
  • What are the issues and opportunities of working with students to conduct research in schools?
  • Where else are schools engaging students as school change agents?

In the final chapter editor Michael Fielding provides a remarkable framework for evaluating the conditions of student voice and offers an appraisal of student voice as a force for genuine change in schools. It effectively serves as an evaluation framework for assessing the meaningfulness of student involvement. This framework exists in a space that has always existed, yet never before been occupied.

This edition of Forum provides essential documentation of existing efforts that promote student inclusive school change. It provides detailed, diverse, and replicable accounts of success.

The international perspectives, the stories, and the tools offered in this publication provide important considerations for student inclusive change efforts.

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SoundOut Student Voice Research Reviews

The goal of the SoundOut Student Voice Research Reviews is to identify some of the most significant publications that are widely available that address issues important to meaningful student involvement; namely, they include:

  • The purpose of student voice;
  • The identity of students who are involved;
  • The authority granted to students to create change;
  • The role of student/adult partnerships in school change; and
  • Critical examination of student voice and involvement.

The following articles, journals and books reviewed here have come from both scholarly research that represents a scientific, theory-testing approach; and applied research that employs case studies resulting in theories.

Simply click on the following title for a description of the research findings and a review of their content as it is relevant to SoundOut.

Research Reviews

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Past Projects

SoundOut Small Schools Project

SoundOut supported the Small Schools Project in Seattle in 2004-05.

We provided introductory training in meaningful student involvement for 25+ small schools coaches, as well as an intensive training in meaningful student involvement for 50+ students and adults focused on planning for meaningful student involvement in their local small school projects. Included the creation of a chapter for School Culture: An Introduction published by Small Schools Project. 

Past Projects

HumanLinks Student Voice Program

From 2004 to 2008, SoundOut contracted with the HumanLinks Foundation, a small family foundation in north Seattle, to develop foundation goals, knowledge, and activities to support meaningful student involvement throughout education.

We assisted in the development and implementation of an activity-oriented approach towards meaningful student involvement. Activities included the development of a strategic plan, ongoing consultation, project development and management, and evaluation. Specific activities included supporting New Horizons for Learning’s student voice initiative, a Seattle Public Schools high school student project, and activities in local schools.

Resources developed include, the Meaningful Student Involvement Guide to Inclusive School Change, Stories of Meaningful Student Involvement, Meaningful Student Involvement Research Guide, the Meaningful Student Involvement Resource Guide, and the SoundOut Student Voice Curriculum.


Past Projects

SoundOut School Improvement Planning Project

SoundOut worked with a number of partner agencies, schools, and the state education agency to facilitate the SoundOut School Improvement Planning Pilot Project. Elementary, middle, and high schools across Washington State joined in student voice training, programs, and evaluations regarding the role of students in formal school improvement activities.

From 2003 to 2006, SoundOut worked in elementary, middle, and high schools across Washington State to facilitate training, programs, and evaluations regarding the role of students in formal school improvement activities. We created professional development, student training, whole-school forums, and systemic evaluations of student voice and meaningful student involvement. Funding was provided by the HumanLinks Foundation, with additional support from Yakima Public Schools, and the Center for Bridging the Digital Divide.

Pilot Schools

  • Lewis and Clark Middle School (Yakima, WA) SoundOut facilitated a school improvement planning process for 35 traditional and nontraditional student leaders, 10 teachers, and several administrators focused integrating student voice in school improvement. The 750 students in this urban school all participated in a student co-designed survey. Afterwards, students analyzed the data, identified their priorities, and presented information to building and district leaders.
  • Ridgeview Elementary School (Yakima, WA) SoundOut facilitated a school improvement planning process for 25 students and 5 teacher-partners. Participants completed training on student voice and co-designed a survey with their school improvement facilitator. Afterwards, they created action plans that will sustain an annual student team focused on school improvement in their building.
  • Spanaway Elementary School (Bothell, WA) SoundOut facilitated several training programs for students and educators at Spanaway focused on student voice and service learning.
  • Dayton High School (Dayton, WA) SoundOut facilitated training in meaningful student involvement for 20 student leaders, who then facilitated student voice forums for every student in this rural eastern Washington school. Those forums led to the creation of four action plans that were presented to the student body.
  • Friday Harbor High School (Friday Harbor, WA) SoundOut facilitated a school improvement planning process focused on meaningful student involvement in this rural island high school. School-wide forums and classes led by students brought a new commitment among students and teachers to promote student voice at the school.
  • Secondary Academy for Success (Bothell, WA) SoundOut provided training to nontraditional student leaders at this alternative high school in suburban Seattle. After facilitating a school-wide forum for 150 students on school improvement in Spring 2003, students have joined committees and made reports to the school board on how they think schools should change.


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Past Projects

Washington State Learn & Serve America

From 2002 to 2006, SoundOut’s Adam Fletcher worked with the Washington State Learn & Serve America program. He provided expert training, consultation, and evaluation for 50 schools statewide. SoundOut partnered with OSPI’s service learning coordinator to provide training and technical assistance focused on meaningful student involvement in service learning for 50+ K-12 schools across Washington. Activities included training students and educators in student voice and evaluating service learning programs in local schools. Outcomes from the project also included the creation of the Meaningful Student Involvement Idea Guide, printed by OSPI. Adam also researched and wrote the Washington Youth Voice Handbook for OSPI.

Partner Schools (sample)

  • Vashon Island Student Link Alternative School, Vashon
  • Spanaway Elementary School, Spanaway
  • Langley Middle School, Langley
  • Evergreen High School, Vancouver
  • Lewis and Clark High School, Spokane


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Past Projects

Service Learning Seattle Student Voice Outreach

logo SLSSoundOut has contracted with Seattle Public Schools several times to support student voice in equity and race relations as well as service learning. Our activities have included project planning, program design and delivery, evaluation, writing, training, technical assistance, speaking, and professional development services.

In a variety of ways, SoundOut has been involved with the district’s Service Learning Seattle program since 2001. SoundOut Founding Director Adam Fletcher has been an advisor and spoke at several of the annual symposia hosted by the program.

From 2010 through 2015, SoundOut consulted Service Learning Seattle’s Youth Engagement Zone. In this capacity, we have provided program design, facilitation, evaluation, strategic planning, and freelance writing services. Our activities have included:

  • Advising the district service learning program affecting app. 40,000 K-12 students.
  • Co-creating and facilitating two ten-hour symposia on student voice for 150 attendees
  • Conceptualizing, planning, and co-facilitating a multi-year professional learning community providing 50 hours of professional development for 45 nonprofit workers focused on youth engagement.
  • Designing and managing an 80-hour summer learning program focused using student-driven technology education as part of a Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) curriculum with four staff members serving 20 high school students.

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