SoundOut Research Tools

SoundOut has developed a series of research-related articles, tools, and other information. Following is our collection.

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Cities in Schools Program

In modern schools... Assessment happens through Meaningful Student Involvement. Learn more at SoundOut.org.A teacher with the Cities in Schools program in New York City engaged her students as evaluators in order to transform her practice.

She wanted to provide students with the experience of being in charge while helping them to develop skills in written and oral communication and logic. Believing students must be treated- and must see themselves- as working evaluators, the teacher also believed staff members could get usable information about their programs from student evaluators. Throughout, she assured students their evaluations were real and would be used in the programs.

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Elsewhere Online

  • Campell, P., Edgar, S. and Halsted, A.L. (October 1994) “Students as Evaluators: A Model for Program Evaluation,” Phi Delta Kappan, 76, 2.

Review: Putting Students at the Centre in Education Reform

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

“Putting students at the centre in education reform” By B. Levin. Published in 1999 in International Journal of Educational Change.

Putting Students argues that in order for school reform to be effective, students need to participate in the school improvement process. A foundation and framework are explored that engage students in defining, shaping, managing and implementing school improvement practices.

This paper offers a concise, detailed exploration of the principles and rationale that support student involvement from a practical perspective that focuses on progressive activities. After exploring the recent history of student involvement, the author provides the following arguments for increasing student involvement:

  • Effective implementation of change requires participation and buy-in from all those involved; students no less than teachers;
  • Students have unique knowledge and perspectives that can make reform efforts more successful and improve implementation;
  • Students’ views can help mobilize staff and parent opinion in favor of meaningful reform;
  • Constructivist learning, which is increasingly important to high standards reforms, requires a more active student role in schooling;
  • Students are the producers of school outcomes, so their involvement is fundamental to all improvement (p3).

Levin explains that the first three are related to organizational health; the last two have to do specifically with how learning occurs. He then continues to carefully detail the diverse literature supporting his arguments by including specific sources from the areas of education, psychology, sociology and business.

In a section exploring the role of the student in school improvement, Levin provides three steps schools should consider:

  1. Involve several students in formal management processes;
  2. Provide training and support students, and;
  3. Ask students to organize their own parallel process of discussion of change that could bring many more students into the deliberative process.

Levin makes a special note that educators should engage students in all grade levels in these efforts and not limit participation to high school students.

Putting Students provides a concise, deliberate rationale for meaningful student involvement while offering broad resources and diverse thinking for school improvement. The author situates student voice as a key component among current education reform practices and literature.

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Review: “Listening To Urban Kids: School Reform And The Teachers They Want”

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

Review of “Listening To Urban Kids: School Reform And The Teachers They Want” by B. Wilson & HD Corbett. Published in 2001 by State University of New York Press in Albany, New York.

Listening to Urban Kids provides a broad account of what middle school students at several low-performing schools think about their education. Based on the three-year study conducted by Wilson and Corbett in five Philadelphia middle schools, the authors conclude that successful school reform should become noticeable in what students say about school. They argue that students’ input should be an important part of planning, implementing, and adjusting reform.

The authors of Listening share students’ unaltered comments about a variety of topics that have direct relevance in school change. The second chapter addresses the changes that students said they witnessed during the three-year study period. The next chapter highlights the students’ descriptions of the differences in pedagogy, subject content, and learning environment as they moved from classroom to classroom. The fourth chapter contains the most crucial section of the book, emphasizing the value of students as constructive education critics. The remainder of the book discusses students’ experiences in middle school, the implications of the students’ descriptions and insights for educational reform, and the value of using students as resources on the progress of reform.

The researchers originally conducted a series of interviews with a cohort of 247 sixth grade students from six schools. Over three years the number was reduced to 153. Interviewing was an informal process that happened in casual settings throughout the schools, with the researchers emphasizing a casual approach in order to make students more comfortable. The book relies heavily on direct quotes from students, maintaining their original grammar. Throughout the book there is minimal commentary by the authors.

Listening offers several important thoughts from students:

  • Students value teachers who give them the extra help they need to succeed and explain their lessons clearly.
  • Students said that they want teachers who believe in them.
  • Students not only value having a variety of activities in the classroom, they value teachers who use content that mirrors real life, making schoolwork relevant and meaningful.

An important conclusion of the study comes from the authors’ advocacy for “reforming with, not for, students” (p126). Distinguishing between students as “beneficiaries” or “participants”, the authors call for educators to explore how successful any reform truly is. This is particularly important when reform practices runs counter to what the literature on change recommends – that is, engaging the recipients as main contributors to the process. According to this study, if education leaders listened to students, “they would find out that they have invaluable partners in the educational enterprise – if only students had the chance” (p128).

Ultimately, Listening offers an important introduction to the validity of student voice. However, without encouraging the engagement of students as meaningful actors in school change efforts, Listening misses the glaring potential of being a rallying call for meaningful student involvement.

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School Leadership and Meaningful Student Involvement

SoundOut for Meaningful Student Involvement

2013LeadthruMSISchool building leadership can be a logical and impacting location for Meaningful Student Involvement in all schools.

When students participate in the formal activities of policy making, committee memberships and school improvement, they can be meaningfully involved in school leadership. This is more than simply attending school events. It is becoming actively engaged as fully equitable partners with adults in the guidance, deliberation, visioning and outcomes of the educational process for much more than the individual student.

Oftentimes, Meaningful Student Involvement in school leadership can affect hundreds, if not thousands of students. Engaging students in these activities includes opportunities for them to be involved in decision-making, research, planning, evaluation, co-learning and advocacy.

Places in School Building Leadership

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Elsewhere Online

  • School Leadership Toolkit – Available from the European Policy Network on School Leadership (EPNoSL), this toolkit guides European schools as they reflection on school leaderhsip. The EPNoSL toolkit seeks to ensure that the issues of equity and learning achievement underlie reflections on school leadership policy planning and encourages all school leadership stakeholders, including policy makers, school heads, teachers, administrators, parents and pupils to engage in a constructive dialogue. Meaningful Student Involvement is mentioned in context.