Cycle of Meaningful Student Involvement

The Cycle of Meaningful Student Involvement.

Introduction to the Cycle
Listen, validate, authorize, act, and reflect. These are not radical concepts unfamiliar to seasoned educators. However, while it is true that educators intuitively go through these steps with students every single day, it can be challenging to keep them in focus while going through the daily functions of running a classroom or school.

This cycle is designed to illustrate a clear process everyone can use to engage students. The most important consideration here is to consider student involvement as more than student voice. It requires more than simply hearing, checking-in, or talking to students. Meaningful Student Involvement is deep; going through the cycle gets to the depth.

The Cycle of Meaningful Student Involvement provides a pathway educators can use to create sustainable connections with students. It can seem very familiar, and that is one of the advantages of using the Cycle for learning, teaching, and leadership.

The five steps acknowledge both the simplicity and complexity of truly substantive relationships between students and the educators who work with them. This tool can serve as both a planning guide and as an evaluation tool that anticipates what lies ahead and looks back on what has past. Following is an examination of the different motions of the Cycle.

Five Steps of the Cycle


Read on to learn more, or visit SoundOut for a brief summary of the entire Cycle of Meaningful Student Involvement.

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

32 Resources on Meaningful Student Involvement

SoundOut provides these resources for you to use in your own school.

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Readings

Examples

Activities

Research

Tools

Barriers

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

Public Schools Aren’t Democratic

Being the autocratic, adultcentric environments that they are, public schools today are not democratic. They are existent within a society operating on democratic methods, and they (mostly) publicly allow every young person to enroll in them. However, on the whole, public schools are not led in a democratic fashion, are devoid of democratic teaching methods, and do not teach democracy in a systemic, deliberate fashion.

School leaders and educators routinely tell students that schools aren’t democracies, too. That pronouncement alone is terrible. It makes student voice, student leadership, and student engagement activities something other than democratic: tokenistic and belittling, some students see through them and are justly cynical or resistant to participating. 

Because of this, the argument that student voice is democracy in action is flawed at its core. In my experience working with hundreds of schools across the US and Canada, I’ve found that, relatively speaking, students who are chosen to share their voices in school leadership are generally not representative of the majority of learners. They generally have privileges that others don’t, including the academic achievement and fiscal background needed to allow them to participate, and to ensure their successful experience sharing student voice.

These students are generally what I call “traditional student voice”; that is, their voices are generally predictable and acceptable to adults. Through gross over-exaggerations about schools and the inability of education to meet their needs, many student voice representatives today don’t even address the basic concerns of low-achieving students, students of color, or low-income students in schools today. To the chagrin of many of my compatriots in the student voice movement, I regularly see and admit that the majority of traditional student voice representatives merely toe the corporate education agenda sold by mainstream media and the vast majority of politicians (as do their parents).

While all students’ voices have value for improving schools and transforming education, when adults hold up one set of students’ voices and make them reflective or representative of the whole education system that it becomes problematic. That’s true of nontraditional student voice as well as traditional student voice. While some educators pedestal convenient student voice, there are nonprofit organization programs that do the same with inconvenient student voice. They routinely uplift the voices of students of color, low-income students, underachieving learners, and others, offering those students’ critiques as a singular focus for school improvement.

In reality, this isn’t democracy either, as both position one group of students above others. While I readily acknowledge that all student voice is not created equal, I believe that in democracy all people ARE created equal. That’s an essential distinction, and shows why public schools aren’t democratic.

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

In Modern Schools…

Today, I finished a series of thumbnails for the SoundOut facebook page. They emphasize the research-driven results I’ve discovered over a decade of researching the premise of Meaningful Student Involvement. Here’s the monograph I wrote called Meaningful Student Involvement Research, which focuses on some of those findings, and following are the thumbnails. What do you think?

In modern schools ASSESSMENT happens through Meaningful Student Involvement.

In modern schools BELONGING happens through Meaningful Student Involvement.

In modern schools ENGAGEMENT happens through Meaningful Student Involvement.

In modern schools LEADERSHIP happens through Meaningful Student Involvement.

In modern schools LEARNING happens through Meaningful Student Involvement.

In modern schools PARTNERSHIP happens through Meaningful Student Involvement.

In modern schools SUCCESS happens through Meaningful Student Involvement.

In modern schools TEACHING happens through Meaningful Student Involvement.

As always, I’d love to talk about this work with you! Drop a line and let’s get in touch…

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

Different Approaches to Students Changing Schools

Activities focused on Meaningful Student Involvement and Student Voice reflect two distinctly different routes to engage students in changing schools. Meaningful Student Involvement holds student voice carefully and respects its sentiment while honoring its sensibilities and enriching its possibilities.


Student Voice is any expression of any student anytime related to education. 
  • Doesn’t require schools to change
  • Doesn’t require students to change
  • Doesn’t require adults to change
  • Doesn’t necessarily change education

    Meaningful Student Involvement is a process for engaging students as partners in every facet of school change for the purpose of strengthening their commitment to education, community, and democracy. It focuses on:
    • System-wide action for school improvement
    • Deep student/adult commitment
    • Whole school transformation
    • Deep learning for students and adults
    • Expanded opportunities for students and adults
    Want to learn more about Meaningful Student Involvement and Student Voice? Visit the SoundOut website for stories and examples, tools, research, resources, and more, and read my Frameworks for Meaningful Student Involvement for details.
    Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

    Selling Students Short

    We are selling students short. Many of the very organizations, programs, and agencies that are engaging student voice are oftentimes blindsiding their targets.

    I say we are selling students short because student voice is often inauthentic. Students are incapacitated from participating fully in conversations about schools.

    What Makes Student Voice Inauthentic

    • Little Adults: Pulled from their schools, in order to share student voice, students are expected to talk how adults talk, dress how adults dress, and act like adults act.
    • Taught their Opinions: Drilled in the importance of a specific issue that adults have determined they need to hear student voice focused on, adults teach students adults’ perspectives only. After that, they ask students to stand up for that issue in the ways adults agree with.
    • Little or No Room for Dissent. With or without being conscious of it, students whose voices are heard by adults eagerly comply with adults. Those who don’t comply aren’t given room to disagree, and are frequently railroaded out of student voice activities.
    • No Credit for Participation. Adult educators are often paid for their time to participate in extra-curricular activities. Students receive little or no credit for participating, whether in the form of money or class credit. Students who can’t afford to skip classes or attend at night are excluded from activities.

    Working with many situations over the years, I have found these traits and a few others to be relatively consistent, and I believe that ultimately, it is selling students short.

    As I share regularly in teacher workshops, professional development seminars, and keynote speeches, Student Voice is any expression of any learner in any place about education. It is NOT only things adults approve of, and is so much more than what generally passes for student voice today.

    Students deserve more than opportunities to share student voice. That is why I researched the field and worked with students and adults nationally and internationally to develop my Frameworks for Meaningful Student Involvement. When students become interested in changing schools, we should work our hardest to position them as active partners in transformation, and nothing less than that.

    Learn how at www.soundout.org and contact me for more info.

    8 Keys to Student Voice in Learning

    Student Voice, which is any expression of any student about anything related to education and learning, can be infused into all classrooms to help students learn better.

    It can be easy to misbelieve that Student Voice is just about letting students have a say in what, how, why, when, or where they’re taught. That is not true. Student Voice is any expression of students. Here are some points to guide your understanding about Student Voice and learning.

    1. All Student Voice Matters. 
    2. Every Learning Relationship Matters.
    3. Students Aren’t Incomplete. 
    4. Total Responsibility Is Shared. 
    5. Students Know Things. 
    6. Equity, Not Equality. 
    7. It’s About Learning, Teaching, AND Leadership.
    8. Student Voice Requires More Than Just Talking.

    Want to learn more? Check out The Guide To Student Voice by Adam Fletcher, available now on Amazon.com. In a simple, easy-to-read format, its detail all the major details anyone needs to know about student voice, including what it is, when it happens, who its for, why it matters, and how to engage students in student voice work. 
    Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

    Students Can POWERFULLY Change Schools!

    The SoundOut Student Voice Curriculum: Teaching Students to Change Schools transforms learning, teaching, and leadership throughout schools! For the first time, its available on Amazon.com for YOU to order now! Find it right now here.

    Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

    Checking Student Voice Assumptions

    Before you get started with your student voice project, you want to check your assumptions.

    You might begin by saying to your group, “Before getting started in actually engaging student voice, there are some important questions we have to ask ourselves and our school:

    • What is the vision for students in our school? 
    • What is the motivation for involving students? 
    • What expectations do we have for students and adults in the school? 
    • What roles can students play? 
    • What resources exist to ensure success for involving students in our school?
      After you’ve considered those questions, have conversations about addressing any issues that may have arisen, and then move forward!

      Adapted from the SoundOut Student Voice Curriculum, copyright 2013 Adam Fletcher for CommonAction. Learn more.

      Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

      How to Solve the Biggest Problem in Schools

      As a pathway towards enfranchisement of students as full humans, student voice in schools is one avenue. Others include youth engagement throughout society, including civic, economic, cultural, recreational, and familial activities. Further still, the creation of advanced structures of support for young people, including training, funding, and personal support programs, will help take society there.

      More specifically, there are many ways that students and adults can move schools towards transformation. Here are a few different takes on this from my blog:

      Ultimately though, the most powerful step any of us can take is to transform the ways we see and treat children and youth every single day. If every one of us changed our own attitudes and behaviors, we would see the complete engagement of young people emerge as a new cultural norm within a generation. More importantly though, we would continue to influence and motivate succeeding generations of children and youth as they change the world they live in.

      I believe there is no greater action we can take.

      Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!