A Review of
"Student Voice in School Reform: Reframing
the Floodgates: Giving Students a Voice in School Reform."
Meaningful Student Involvement Research Review by Adam Fletcher.
Both of these articles are based on the same study,
conducted by Mitra in a California school district. Mitra’s
research is from one of the few studies in the United States that
explores the process by which students can be engaged in schools. In
the first article, she draws upon a two-and-a-half year period in
which she conducted hundreds of interviews and observations at one
urban high school. In the second article, Mitra conducts a
comparative analysis of two schools that employed “student voice” in
school change efforts. Mitra identifies and examines the strategies –
both successful and failed – that were used by the schools to listen
to, understand, and actively engage students in school change.
schools, teachers – those most often in contact with students – are
often the least informed about what students really think. This
project sought to rectify that imbalance of information by realigning
the roles of students in two schools that sought to engage students in
change. In order to accomplish this, these schools conducted a
variety of activities, including student focus groups, in-class
discussions, and student involvement in staff training. Activities
met various measures of success. In one school, teachers invited
failing students to participate in a discussion to explore reasons for
failure. A teacher present at these focus groups described the
student responses as “very honest, very serious, their chance to
contribute… They weren’t saying what we wanted them to say.” (2001,
p91). At the other school, Mitra found students ready to invest a
great deal of time engaging in teacher-focused activities, including
participating in teacher research, assessment development, and
textbook adoption (2003, p292).
important benefits from having an ethnically and socially mixed group
of students working together on projects designed to enhance student
responsibility and status in school. “When the group first came
together as a community of practice, they didn’t yet have the language
to articulate who they were. And this contributed to their struggles
to agree upon a joint enterprise… The students needed to get along
with students different than them – students from different cliques,
who speak different language, who are on different tracks in the
school’s academic system” (Mitra, as quoted in Rudduck & Flutter
These two articles ultimately remind readers that
school change does not happen in a vacuum. There are multiple
supports and outcomes that must be considered in individual contexts.
Most importantly, the articles reinforce the fact that meaningful
student involvement is a growing practice that will significantly
alter the dynamics of schools and improve teaching and learning.
McGill Journal of Education is available from