Aims of Meaningful Student Involvement

It can seem kinda obvious to think about what the purpose of school is. It was for me when I started digging into the question. But when I started to dig I found that the purpose wasn’t as obvious as I thought it would be. Well, when I sat down to frame out my definition of Meaningful Student Involvement five years ago, I decided that I needed to say plainly what the goals of this effort are. Here are those goals.

…Engage students at all grade levels and in all subjects as contributing stakeholders in teaching, learning, and leading in schools.

There are no “across-the-board” limitations, such as race, gender, socio-economic status, school size, or subject matter, or developmental roadblocks, like age, academic performance or physical disabilities that prohibit Meaningful Student Involvement. Educators in all grade levels are equally charged with the responsibility of infusing hope into learning. Meaningful Student Involvement also extends across and integrates within all curricula, challenging the social studies teacher equally with the physical education teacher.

…Expand the expectation of every student in every school to become an active and equal partner in school improvement.

Traditional roles for student participation in schools can be perceived as limiting in many ways. Meaningful Student Involvement acknowledges the central role students have in educational reform by building the capacity of schools for meaningful involvement.

…Instill a core commitment within all members of the school community – including teachers, administrators, school staff, parents, community supporters and others – to meaningfully involve students as learners, teachers and leaders throughout schools.

This happens in collaborative, community-building classrooms, kindergarten through twelfth grade, where student/teacher partnerships are valued as primary tools for teaching, learning and leading. From the earliest grades all students are taught critical thinking and active leadership, and are engaged as purposeful learners who embrace multiple, diverse perspectives.

…Provide students and educators with sustainable, responsive, and systemic approaches to engaging all students in school improvement.

As our society constantly changes, so must schools. Meaningful Student Involvement transforms schools into places where students can make significant contributions alongside educators and administrators. This activity takes place within an educational context where adults and young people are equal contributors to a continuous learning process focusing on school change.

…Validate the experience, perspectives and knowledge of all students through sustainable, powerful and purposeful school-oriented roles.

Instead of creating special, one-time opportunities where “student voice” can misrepresent the multiple perspectives of diverse student populations, Meaningful Student Involvement charges educators with the responsibility of engaging all students in dynamic roles with the on-going task of creating and fostering success in schools.

…Engage educators as allies and partners to students.

School improvement programs can treat students as passive recipients of education, encouraging the perception of students as empty vessels that need to be filled with teachers’ knowledge. The same efforts that engage teachers as classroom experts and parents as community partners can also include students as meaningful contributors.

…Avoid filtering student perspectives, experiences or knowledge with adult interpretations.

When considering students as allies to educators, adults maybe tempted to act as translators for the often misunderstood “student voice.” However, young people of all ages have the capacity, and, to varying extents, the ability, to speak for themselves. Often this capacity may be undermined by the disbelief of otherwise good-hearted adults who honestly believe they know what students think.

Meaningful Student Involvement creates platforms for students’ experience, ideas and knowledge of schools, without filtering those words through adult lenses. Students can learn about the schools they attend, the topics they should learn, the methods being tested on them, the roles of educators and administrators, and much more.

Adapted from Stories of Meaningful Student Involvement, copyright 2005 Adam Fletcher.
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

Published by Adam F.C. Fletcher

I'm a speaker and writer who researches, writes and shares about youth, education, and history. Learn more about me at

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