Students As Partners In Learning: Adam Fletcher Talks About Meaningful Student Involvement
©2008 Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. Originally published in the Spring/Summer 2008 edition of Education Northwest and online at http://www.nwrel.org/nwedu/13-03/features/partners.php.
Adam Fletcher knows what it’s like to have his “voice” stifled. As a high school student from the wrong side of the tracks in Omaha, he tried to convince his principal and teachers to let him organize a schoolwide Earth Day recycling effort. Repeatedly rebuffed, he did it anyway and was rewarded with a two-day suspension. Fletcher, who admits he had a “challenging” secondary school career, later channeled his activism into founding a series of nonprofits—SoundOut, The Freechild Project, and the now-defunct Common Action. From Seattle to New York to Boston, he coaches schools and districts on how to partner with students for school change. Over a cup of herbal tea at an Olympia, Washington, cafe, Fletcher talked to Northwest Education about meaningful student involvement and engagement.
- A schoolwide approach, in which student voice isn’t just limited to one activity, one day, one time. It’s seen as being part of the entire school environment.
- High levels of student authority, meaning students have the opportunity to not only say what they feel, but adults validate their ideas and authorize them to act.
- Interrelated strategies, which goes back to schoolwide approaches; students are part of ongoing school improvement through learning, teaching, and leadership activities.
- Sustainable structures of support, so student involvement isn’t just a flash in the pan; also, sustainability is all about reaching beyond the student body and bringing in the whole community.
- Personal commitment, which means educators and students aren’t just involved because it’s an academic requirement or because their friends do it; there’s an internal drive or motivation.
- Strong learning connections, which build a learning component into student involvement.
How much of this depends on having strong leadership and how do you get over the fact that—as with many school reforms—when the leader leaves, the program dies?