Core Beliefs Behind SoundOut

Founded more than a decade ago, the core beliefs behind my work with SoundOut are not unique. Rather, they were identified through workshops with 100s of students and teachers, and by conducting research into the history of education. They may be best summarized by researcher Alison Cook-Sather of Byrn-Mawr College in Pennsylvania, who wrote that,

“Because of who they are, what they know, and how they are positioned, students must be recognized as having knowledge essential to the development of sound educational policies and practices.” (2002)

When I work in schools, here is what I stand for: 

Belief #1: All students in all schools should learn how to make education meaningful. Many students express feeling subjected to education without understanding how they benefit from it. At the same time, many adults express frustration from the lack of student investment in learning. The connections between obtuse learning goals and static teaching methods often serve to further those negative perspectives, only pushing students further from success and teachers closer to abandonment. SoundOut programs and activities engage students as “meaning makers” within their own school, and throughout education.

Belief #2: Students need opportunities to apply learning in meaningful ways. Self-designed, place-based service learning encourages students to find purpose in broad lessons by contextualizing education. SoundOut’s projects embrace these approaches by infusing student learning with practical, applicable opportunities to change schools. Students see the affect of their learning as well as their action, additionally encouraging the same among their peers.

Belief #3: There is a need for equity between student autonomy and adult guidance. The divide between students and adults in society does not need to be replicated in schools, as evidenced in the most successful student-centered teaching methods. SoundOut positions students in equitable relationships with adults, as co-learners and colleagues, effectively allowing partnerships that can transform schools and the educative process itself.

These are some of my beliefs about student voice and Meaningful Student Involvement. What do YOU stand for?

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

Published by Adam

For almost two decades, Adam F. C. Fletcher has led international outreach focused on engaging people successfully. Working with thousands of youth-serving nonprofits, K-12 schools, government agencies, international NGOs and other organizations around the world, his work spans the fields of education, public health, economic development and social services, and includes professional development, public speaking, publishing, social media and more. He founded the Freechild Institute for Youth Engagement, SoundOut and CommonAction, as well as writing more than 50 publications and 500 articles. He has also established 150-plus community empowerment projects.

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