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.

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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!
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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.
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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

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Roles for Students throughout the Education System

These are roles for students throughout education by Adam Fletcher for SoundOut.

What are the broadest possible roles for engaging students as partners throughout the K-12 education system? 

 

The most important thing when engaging students in any role in school is to acknowledge their first duty: Learning. Their learning is paramount to being meaningfully involved throughout schools. Learning through meaningful student involvement should include: stated learning goals, meaningful action, and sustained, deep reflection.

Following are a several roles students can have that can transform schools and education forever.

Roles for Students throughout the Education System

  • Students as Facilitators. Knowledge comes from study, experience, and reflection. Engaging students as learning guides and facilitators helps reinforce their commitment to learning and the subject they are teaching; it can also engage both young and older learners in exciting ways.
  • Students as Researchers. Identifying issues, surveying interests, analyzing findings, and developing projects in response are all powerful avenues for Student Voice.
  • Students as Planners. Planning includes program design, event planning, curriculum development, and hiring staff. Students planning activities can lend validity, creativity, and applicability to abstract concepts and broad outcomes.
  • Students as OrganizersCommunity organizing happens when leaders bring together everyone in a community in a role that fosters social change. Students community organizers focus on issues that affect themselves and their communities; they rally their peers, families, and community members for action.
  • Students as AdvocatesWhen students stand for their beliefs and understand the impact of their voices, they can represent their families and communities with pride, courage, and ability.
  • Students as Evaluators. Assessing and evaluating the effects of programs, classes, activities, and projects can promote Student Voice in powerful ways. Students can learn that their opinions are important, and their experiences are valid indicators of success.
  • Students as Experts. Envisioning roles for students to teach students is relatively easy; seeing new roles for students to teach adults is more challenging. Students specialists bring expert knowledge about particular subjects to programs and organizations, enriching everyone’s ability to be more effective.
  • Students as AdvisorsWhen students advise adults they provide genuine knowledge, wisdom, and ideas to each other, adults, schools, and education agencies, and other locations and activities that affect them and their world at large.
  • Students as Designers. Students participate in creating intentional, strategic plans for an array of activities, including curriculum, building construction, students and community programs, and more.
  • Students as Teachers. Facilitating learning for themselves, other students and educators, other adults in schools, or adults throughout our schools can be teachers of small and large groups in all kinds of topics. [Examples]
  • Students as Grant-makersStudents can identify funding, distribute grants, evaluate effectiveness, and conduct other parts of the process involved in grant-making.
  • Students as LobbyistsInfluencing policy-makers, legislators, politicians, and the people who work for them are among the activities for students as lobbyists.
  • Students as TrainersWhen they train adults, students, children, and others, youth can share their wisdom, ideas, knowledge, attitudes, actions, and processes in order to guide programs, nurture organization and community cultures, and change the world.
  • Students as PoliticiansRunning for political office at the community, city, county, or state levels, students can be politicians in a variety of positions. In some places, they can run for school boards or as education trustees too.
  • Students as Recruiters. Students building excitement, sharing motivation, or otherwise helping their peers and other people to get involved, create change, or make all sorts of things happen throughout schools and the entire education system.
  • Students as Social entrepreneursWhen students recognize a social problem, they can use entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make schools and their communities change.
  • Students as Paid staffWhen schools hire students, they can be staff members in schools and throughout the education system. They can fulfill many roles on this list in paid positions.
  • Students as Mentors. Mentoring is a non-hierarchical relationship between students and adults, adults and students, or among students themselves, that helps facilitate learning and guidance for each participant.
  • Students as Decision-MakersMaking rules in classrooms is not the only way to engage students in decision-making. Participating in formal and informal decision-making, students can be school board members, education committee members, and in many different roles throughout schools.
  • Students as Activity Leaders. As activity leaders in schools and education agencies, students can facilitate, teach, guide, direct, and otherwise lead youth, adults, and children in a variety of ways.
  • Students as Policy-MakersWhen they research, plan, write, and evaluate education rules, regulations, laws, and other policies, students as policy-makers can enrich, substantiate, enliven, and impact the outcomes of policies and schools in many ways.

 

These are merely some of the roles. What others can YOU think of? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

 

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

Student Courts and Meaningful Student Involvement

SoundOut for Meaningful Student Involvement
Students deliberate on important issues in a Seattle high school.
Student and adults deliberate together on important issues in a Seattle high school.

Student courts are one approach to engaging students as partners in school discipline. Student courts can happen in elementary, middle, and high school, and when they operate outside schools, they are youth courts. Most often, they provide conflict resolution and interpretation of student bylaws and constitutions. When infused with classroom learning goals and provided equitable opportunities for decision-making as adults, student courts can reflect Meaningful Student Involvement at the highest levels.

What They Do

Elementary, middle and high schools are using student courts as a way to engage students as partners in safe and supportive learning environments. They are also using student courts to teach students about justice and court issues, and to provide an alternative to other forms of punishment for students who disobey rules in order to defeat the school-to-prison pipeline and engage disengaged students.

How They Happen

The first step to creating a student court is to understand that these bodies are basically juries that are made of students alone. Whether happening on the classroom, building, district or state level, student courts should consider these five issues:

  1. Composition – Who will be on the court? How many students will be allowed? How will they be selected? How will they be trained? How long can they be members of the court?
  2. Jurisdiction – What types of offenses will the court rule on? How do student confidentiality laws and overall student safety affect the court?
  3. Preparation – How will students on the court will be trained to be effective and impartial jurors? How will adults learn about student courts?
  4. Operation – When, where and how will student court hearings be conducted? Who will evaluate student success? How will students be acknowledged for participating?
  5. Partnerships – How will student/adult partnerships be evident throughout the proceedings? Who will decide which cases the court hears? Who holds ultimate veto power over the court?

 

As more schools and districts realize the educational potential of student courts for both the students serving on them and those that go before them, they are becoming a popular way to engage students in school decision-making. Like other forms of student government, student court promotes student voice by engaging students as responsible, equitable partners in affecting and shaping schools.

What It Looks Like

Students in Marin County, California, have been partners in youth courts for more than a decade. Committed to eliminating the school-to-prison pipeline, these students learn to use restorative justice practices that keep students in schools and out of the juvenile justice system. With a non-adversarial, student-to-student philosophy at its core, Marin County youth courts have diverted more than 900 students from the juvenile justice system. Their completion rate is 95%, with only 8% recidivism, startling naysayers who insist youth courts are “soft on crime”.

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Truancy and Meaningful Student Involvement

SoundOut for Meaningful Student Involvement

For more than 100 years, schools have wrestled with truancy. Anytime students are intentionally late for class, late for school, or skipping class, they are deemed truant by schools. There are a lot of rules and regulations in schools governing truancy. Most schools and school districts use punishments to enforce those rules and regulations. Meaningful Student Involvement can play an important role in overcoming the challenges truancy presents in learning, teaching and leadership in K-12 schools.

Opportunities for Meaningful Student Involvement

Students can become partners in addressing truancy in a lot of ways. With adults as allies, they can learn a great deal about why truancy happens, what it does and means, how it affects them and their schools, and why it matters so much. In schools and district offices across the nation, students and adults are working together to transform truancy through research, evaluation, planning and decision-making.

  • BOSTON: Working with district administration and their superintendent, the Boston Student Advisory Council (BSAC) investigated why students do not stay in school and became disengaged. BSAC created a survey, interviewed students, collected data and presented their findings to the School Committee. BSAC has combined their solutions with those of the dropout rate research and created a document that is still alive.

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Want student ownership? Be a learning partner, not a learning provider. Learn more at SoundOut.org.

Experiential Education and Meaningful Student Involvement

SoundOut's Adam Fletcher working with middle school students in San Raphael, California.

Since it is one of the things that can make student involvement meaningful, experiential education is a at the center of Meaningful Student Involvement. Experiential education is any learning that happens through direct experience, whether it has intentionally stated learning goals or whether learning remains nebulous, interpretive or unspoken. Students create knowledge, skills and values from active, hands-on activities both inside and outside classrooms.

 

Details

The key idea in experiential education is engaging student voice in action in order to foster learning. Both through teacher-facilitated activities and student-led action, students experience real situations with real outcomes. Meaningful Student Involvement encourages students and educators to see each other as learning partners, refusing to put either role in an inferior position. Instead of seeing learning as a passive, receptive activity, experiential education can encourage students and educators to see learning as interactive and limitless.

 

Roles for Students

When learning moves from focusing on rote memorization and desk time (time-on-task) towards interactivity, engagement and solving real-world problems, students have to begin seeing it in different ways. They quickly assume ownership of learning, teaching and leadership. Becoming immeshed in activities, they can learn to see education as a non-linear, lifelong activity they’re capable of initiating, building, sustaining and critically examining. Through Meaningful Student Involvement, they can become education researchers, school planners, classroom teachers, learning evaluators, systemic decision-makers, and education advocates.

These roles, and many others, allow students to see knowledge as an active, engaged process they can invest in. Active learning can also move students into the broader community outside the walls of schools. Students interact with the surrounding area, whether in the geographic features, natural spaces, built environment, social gatherings, political and government, or other activities and places. Interacting with adults in dynamic, new roles, they can actually transform adult perspectives of students and alter expectations for learning and the school in the larger community. Experiencing increasingly independent and self-directed learning, experiential learning can also lead to extensive use of technology, different and more collaborative relationships between students and adults, and several other features. (Schroeder, 2005)

Whether learning through life or lifelike situations, in experiential education opportunities, students can develop views of educators as facilitators or co-learners and views of themselves as owners and facilitators of their own learning. This is a key outcome of Meaningful Student Involvement.

 

Roles for Teachers

In order to effectively facilitate experiential education, the roles of teachers have to transform, too. Without the ability to predict direct outcomes from chosen learning activities, teachers have to become nimble facilitators and co-learners. Working alongside students, teachers reflect with students and respond to outcomes throughout learning activities. Instead of being mechanistic curriculum deliverers, teachers respond to students’ diverse engagement styles by adapting their approaches, activities and expectations.

In experiential education, educators also move from being traditional knowledge transmitters towards becoming learning coaches. Acting as student learning support specialists, experiential education can allow educators to see the entirety of students. This is one reason why its key to Meaningful Student Involvement.

Ultimately, teachers may need different supports in order to meet the demands of experiential education. Sizer (1984) suggested they include, “altered teaching loads, new student activities, diplomas based on achievement, and curriculum simplification”.

 

Experiential Education Activities

Depending on the situation, teachers using experiential education approaches can use a variety of activities, such as:

 

Types of Experiential Education

Experiential education can include many different learning approaches that can also make student involvement meaningful. They can include:

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