SoundOut for Meaningful Student Involvement

Students as Learning Evaluators

Meaningful Student Involvement can feature roles for students as learning evaluators. Following is an introduction to these opportunities, including details, stories and resources.


SoundOut's Adam Fletcher facilitates students in planning student voice.
SoundOut’s Adam Fletcher facilitates students in planning student voice activities.

 

INTRODUCTION

On one level, teachers are always listening to students’ opinions, checking for comprehension, and whether they have accomplished a task. Another level is reflected in the barrage of student surveys conducted, and the myriad education books that tokenize students’ opinions with quotes from students on their covers.

 

The Difference of Meaningful Student Involvement

Meaningful Student Involvement calls for something more, something that is deliberate, empowering, far-reaching and sustainable. Engaging students as evaluators calls for educators to develop practical, applicable feedback opportunities where students are encouraged to be honest, open and solution-oriented. Students find particular investment in evaluation when they can see tangible outcomes, and have some measure of accountability from the systems, educators, or situations they are evaluating.

Over the course of a school year, teachers might want a variety of evaluations from students. These may include:

  • An occasional large-scale forum where the opinions of students in one or all grade levels are canvassed;
  • Creating a regular pattern of evaluative feedback in lessons; or,
  • Facilitating a series of one-to-one or small group discussions, how members of a particular sub-group of students (the disengaged, high-achievers, young women, young men, or students not from the majority culture in the surrounding community, for example) are feeling about their learning experiences; or shaping a new initiative in the classroom or school.

By involving students as evaluators, schools can develop purposeful, impacting, and authentic assessments of classes, schools, teachers, and enact accountability and ownership for all participants in the learning process. Effective evaluations may include student evaluations of classes and schools; student evaluations of teachers; student evaluations of self, and; student-led parent-teacher conferences, where students present their learning as partners with teachers and parents, instead of as passive recipients of teaching done “to” them.

Learning through Self-Examination

Experience shows that student voice is best understood through the personal experience of all students in all schools, everywhere. We have discovered that critical self-examination leads to deeper perspectives about Meaningful Student Involvement, which allows the evolution of action to be responsive to ever-transforming student populations in schools. We have also found that research-based tools can successfully guide practice in Meaningful Student Involvement, and engaging students in evaluation can help develop those tools.

When this kind of evaluation is new to a school, teachers may feel apprehensive about talking with students in a way that changes traditional power relationships within the school. Teachers may feel challenged by empowering students for many reasons, including feeling disempowered to make decisions in their own classrooms. In response to what is perceived as some schools’ inadequate understanding of the experiences and opinions of students, community groups and education organizations across the nation are engaging students as evaluators. Adults work with students in these programs to design evaluations, conduct surveys, analyze data and create reports to share with fellow students and educators.

Meaningful Student Involvement is tantamount to putting mutual respect and communication in motion between students and educators in schools. Meaningful Student Involvement also requires the investment from educators and students. Many student voice programs have simply thrown the job of sounding out at students, without showing students the degrees of possibility for the input and action of young people. Some neglect the necessity of two-way dialogue, of collaborative student/teacher problem solving, and of truly student inclusive, interdependent school change.

Meaningful Student Involvement in education evaluation gives students and educators the impetus to establish constructive, critical dialogues that place common purpose and interdependence at the center of the discussion. When dissent is encountered, appropriate avenues for resolution can be identified. When inconsistencies and prejudice are revealed, intentional exposure and practical understanding is sought. When educators strive to engage the hope students have for schools, they can foster students’ growth as effective evaluators who actually impact the processes of learning, teaching and leading. In turn, students will offer vital lessons for educators and the education system as a whole.

Purposeful Assessments

Meaningful Student Involvement engages students as evaluators delivering purposeful assessments of their classes, teachers, and whole school. Students can also evaluate themselves or facilitate student-led parent-teacher conferences, where students present their learning as partners with teachers and parents, instead of as passive recipients of teaching done “to” them.

When this kind of evaluation is new to a school, teachers may feel apprehensive about talking with students in a way that changes traditional power relationships within the school. Teachers may feel challenged by empowering students for many reasons, including feeling disempowered to make decisions in their own classrooms. In response to what is perceived as some schools’ inadequate understanding of the experiences and opinions of students, community groups and education organizations across the nation are engaging students as evaluators. Adults work with students in these programs to design evaluations, conduct surveys, analyze data and create reports to share with fellow students and educators.

PLACES FOR STUDENTS AS EVALUATORS

Following are some of activities that engage students as evaluators.

  • Classrooms: Students assess themselves, their peers, teachers, curricula, and classes, recommending changes and acknowledging expectations on teachers and administrators.
  • Administration: Students are engaged with administrators in evaluating the effects and outcomes of meaningfully involving students throughout school decision-making.
  • Culture: Students compare student/teacher relationships and perspectives of respect throughout school.
Stories of Students as Evaluators

Following are examples of students evaluating each others, evaluating themselves, evaluating teachers, curriculum, school cultures, and more.

Considerations for Students as Evaluators

Engaging students as evaluators should not mean replacing any other evaluations. Instead, it should be seen as an additional information source. This is true whether students are evaluating themselves, their peers, classroom curricula, school climate, or their teachers directly. Student evaluations should not replace teacher evaluations. This is an important reality to consider.

Another important consideration is that students in all of the stories above where not simply thrown evaluations and expected to do wonderful things. Instead, they were partnered meaningfully with adults, taught about what they were evaluating, and facilitated through the entire process. This is essential for honoring student learning as well as whatever is being evaluated.

 

Spaces for Student Voice
These are the spaces where student voice should be engaged throughout education.

 


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References

  • Campbell, P., Edgar, S., Halsted, A. (1994). “Students as evaluators: A model for program evaluation,” Phi Delta Kappan 76(2): 160-165.
  • Chappuis, Stephen & Stiggins, Richard J.(2002). “Classroom Assessment for Learning,” Educational Leadership 60 (1): 40-43.
  • Hackman, D. (1997). Student-led conferences at the middle level. Champagne, IL: ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education. (ERIC Document Reproduction No ED407171).
  • McCall, D. (2000). Selected case studies of youth involvement in public decision making. Vancouver, BC: Centre on Community and School Health. www.schoolfile.com/cash/youthinvolvement.htm
  • REAL HARD. (2003). Student voices count: A student-led evaluation of high schools in Oakland. Oakland, CA.: Kids First. www.kidsfirstoakland.org/kidsfirsreport.pdf
  • Scriven, M. (1995). Student ratings offer useful input to teacher evaluations. Washington, DC: ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED398240).

DO YOU HAVE STORIES, RESOURCES OR OTHER INFORMATION TO SHARE ABOUT STUDENTS AS PLANNERS? LEAVE YOUR INFORMATION IN THE COMMENTS BELOW OR CONTACT SOUNDOUT.

 

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

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