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 Unpublished dissertation.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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