Def: Engaging students as partners in educational planning,
research, teaching, evaluating, decision-making, advocacy, and more.
of Students as Education Planners
participating in new
Students planning classroom learning activities
Students budgeting school activities
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of Students as Planners
First-grade students in
Cheney, Washington, have participated in the Learning-Centered
Curriculum-Making Project. This program features students developing a
curriculum that they could use as part of their classroom assignments.
The teachers assumed that if students helped to create the curriculum,
the classroom dialogue about this process would shed light on how to
make learning experiences more cohesive and purposeful. All of
the activities met state learning standards. The project
progressed by teaching students about a subject, and then having
students reinvent the lesson plan. They highlighted language and
thinking skills related to various subject disciplines. The students
used dialog, coaching, modeling, questioning, and reinforcing
techniques. Students helped select target themes, establish guiding
questions, and design classroom instructional activities.
Working with Teachers
A program that
engaged middle school students as researchers at their school in
Orange, California, took the
research to the next step by inviting the students to participate in
school planning meetings. Students spent time with several teachers
planning and constructing learning units based on the research they
conducted. They also met with the school principal, pressing pressed
her for changes in school rules and militaristic physical education
practices. A discipline committee made up of teachers, student
researchers and administrators re-examined and reconceptualized the
school merit system. The principal also formed a student-teacher task
force to visit other schools in the area to begin re-examining the
physical education program. As one student wrote, “When I first
joined the [student/ teacher planning group], I thought it was a waste
of time. I thought a bunch of kids wouldn’t be able to make anything
change; obviously I was wrong.”
Involved from the Ground Up
High school students in Puyallup, Washington,
co-created the mission, guiding principles, and co-wrote the school
constitution for a new high school. The result is a
student-inclusive decision-making process beginning with every student
participating in a leadership class daily. Students also
participated in the architectural design process for the school, with
much of their input being incorporated into the building. Today,
large open spaces and advanced technology courses stand as a testament
to the effectiveness of student participation in education planning.
Education Planning as Activism
One student group in the Bronx, New Yrok is taking
involvement in education planning to the next level. Sistas and
Brothas United, or SBU, is working with school district officials to
create a small school focused on educating students for social
justice. SBU has worked to improve their own schools for several
years. They’ve rallied and researched, and as one student said, “[We]
got a lot of stuff fixed… that gives me a sense of power.” The
students are flexing their power in another direction now. They have
begun working with the local school district and a coalition of
organizations to start a new high school called the Leadership
Institute for Social Justice. As the student-written mission
statements says, “A focus on social justice will help students clarify
their values, understand their rights, and relate these to the
broader world around them.” According to SBU, the school will
center around democratic leadership practices and focus on community
impacts. There will be community space and place-based learning,
as well as student-adult partnerships throughout the curriculum design
and grading. The students do not foster illusions of achieving
their goals tomorrow. According to one student, “In the work we
do, you can’t be selfish… Its about us standing up for what we believe
in and making change for [our sons and daughters]” .
Learning through Service
A high school in Spokane, Washington,
offers a course called Practicum in Community
Involvement that engages students in developing their own year-long
learning project. Students must incorporate certain elements
into their project, including research, action and reflection, and
identify a community mentor to guide them in their learning.
Students’ responses to their experiences grow increasingly
sophisticated and powerful, with students regularly exclaiming, “This
is the only reason I made it through my senior year.”
Successes of Planning
A student in Potomac, Maryland chronicled her
own story of becoming involved in education planning in a recent book
on the subject. She recounted her elementary education and being
shut-out of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings.
“They discussed my program for the next year and then told me what to
do. I did not like it. I felt like I was not important. I
also had no interest in school.” In middle school she attended
IEP meetings for the first time. After spending several months
in boring meetings packed with unfamiliar language, the adults in the
room asked the student if she wanted to go to a school with her peers.
She remarked that, “This was the first time I had a say in what was
going to happen to me in school. After this experience she went
on to have a highly successful high school career, including several
learning experiences from the IEP process. Her transition from
high school to college was marked by several independent decisions.
However, in reflection this student explains that this first
breakthrough meeting where she decided where to go to school was the
point that, “changed my whole life” (Pauley, 1996).
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TOOLS for Students as Planners
Planners: A Guide to Strengthening Students, Schools and Communities
Knowles, T. and Brown, D. (2000).
KIDS Consortium. (2001). Lewiston, ME:
“Chapter 5: Student designed curriculum,”
in What Every Middle School Teacher Should Know.
Westerfield, OH: National Middle Level School Association.
Overcoming Barriers to
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Students as Planners
T. and Brown, D. (2000). “Chapter 5: Student designed curriculum,” in
What Every Middle School Teacher Should Know. Westerfield, OH:
National Middle Level School Association.
Can Do. (2003a). Students submit budget recommendations.
Retrieved from here.
Incorporating student voice into teaching practice.
Kordalewski, J. (1999). ED440049. Washington, DC:
ERIC Clearinghouse on Teaching and Teacher Education.
“Active learning: Students and
the school budget process,”
Evans, R. and Anthony, J. (1991 June). The Social Studies. 56-61.
“Want safe schools? Put the kids
in charge!” Gordon, R. (2003). Classroom Leadership 7(2): 6-7.
When Students Create the
Grace, M. (1999). Educational Leadership, 57 (5) 71-74.
Planning: Fostering Student Ownership in Learning.
Platz, D. (1994). Education.
Students as Partners in
Research and Restructuring Schools.
SooHoo, S. (1993). The Educational Forum. 57
Making it Happen: Student Involvement In Educational Planning.
Wehmeyer, M., Sands, D. (eds.) (1998). altimore, MD: Paul H Brookes Pub Co.
The Schools We Need: Creating Small High
Schools That Work For Us. What
Kids Can Do. (2003) Providence, RI: Author.
Regional Education Labs &
SoundOut compilation of
different government-funded educational research organizations' work
on student voice and involvement.
Can Kids Design Curriculum? Yes! Nelson, J.R.,
Frederick, L. (April 1994). Education Digest, 59 (8)
"Do Students Care about Learning?"
Olson, L. (Ed.) (Sep. 2002). Educational Leadership.
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