Summary of Meaningful Student Involvement

Recently I was asked to write a new summary of Meaningful Student Involvement, and the majority of it wasn’t used. Here is the original text, for an international publication that veers towards academic.

Meaningful Student Involvement, or MSI, is a model for school improvement that strengthens the commitment of students to education, community and democracy. MSI re-envisions the roles of students in equitable partnerships with adults throughout the learning environment. It promotes student engagement by securing roles for students in every facet of the educational system and recognizes the unique knowledge, experience and perspective of each individual student.

As a research-driven model reflecting international practice, MSI effectively reveals the evolving capacities of children and youth in the environments where they spend a large majority of their days: schools. It centers on developing constructivist-learning opportunities for students to participate in roles as education researchers, school planners, teachers, learning evaluators, systemic decision-makers, and advocates in schools, for schools. Adults in schools, including teachers, administrators, and support staff, as well as parents, are central to Meaningful Student Involvement, as well. By building partnerships for better curriculum, classroom management, and formal school improvement, MSI recognizes the necessity of engaging all adults within the learning environment as partners to students. Focused professional development for staff and learning opportunities integrated throughout the school day for students allow the whole school to change.

By reinforcing critical thinking, active problem solving, civic participation, and an appreciation for diverse perspectives, MSI allows students to apply essential “soft skills” learning to real world issues that affect them every day. It represents a shift away from the perspective of students as passive recipients of adult-driven schools by positioning every young person in every learning environment as a learner, teacher, and leader. Even more so, MSI gives schools concrete, customized tools to do this. Meaningful Student Involvement is not just an idea whose time has come– it is a new reality that schools must face.

Case Study

Meaningful Student Involvement was created from the SoundOut Student/Adult Partnerships Project Project. Partnering with government and philanthropic partners, Adam Fletcher, creator of MSI, provided training to staff and nontraditional student leaders at twelve schools across Washington State, including students ages 10 through 18.

One participating high school in suburban Seattle hosted a series of professional development opportunities for adults at the school, and hands-on skill-building and knowledge training courses for students. The student leadership core, comprised of non-traditionally engaged leaders, held a series of events for students from multiple grade levels to share their opinions about schools. After facilitating a school-wide forums for hundreds of students focused on school improvement, students joined committees on curriculum design, standardized testing, and State government compliance. They also made reports to their local school board on how they think schools should change. In the following two years students also became full-voting members of a school redesign project focused on constructing a new building. Their opinions were key to creating a student-centered learning environments.

Today, seven years after the MSI process, students are leaders throughout the school, and learning is viewed as a reciprocal process for everyone in the building. Students, staff, and our community and business partners take responsibility for increasing student learning. According to the school, “This unique team concept results in an average attendance rate of 94%, a graduation rate of 99%, a 100% completion rate on the senior project and a yearly increase in scholarship awards.

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

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