Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Ask the kids

Achievement rises when students are given a voice

In many schools, keeping kids silent is a thing of the past. And from what studies show, the change is happening none too soon. According to many educators, giving students a voice in classroom decisions - such as suggesting themes and topics to study - and in school policies - such as homework regulations - makes schools less autocratic and more democratic.

According to researcher Susan Black, such schools tend to have fewer discipline problems, more civic involvement, higher student engagement, and higher achievement. In addition, schools that genuinely seek and appreciate students’ ideas are more likelyto see their school improvement plans succeed. Even so, the idea of giving students a voice in school matters still meets with skepticism and resistance. Black elaborates in the American School Board Journal.

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Jaimie said...

This makes sense. I remember my sister having a button that read "Question Authority". This did not mean a revolution necessarily, but question what is before us and make it meaningful. I practice this even in my kindergarten classroom. My students have choices, but I am also mandated to teach the state standards-it's a hard thing to do-allow for choices, that is.

Brea said...

If research was consulted more in running classrooms, I think the educational system would look completely different.

Deb Sistrunk said...

Jaimie, without a doubt, you have a tough juggling act. But it sounds as if you have it down to a science. Good for you!

Brea, you are right. No Child Left Behind, the federal education law, requires schools to incorporate more research-based techniques into classroom instruction. I've seen cases where schools have done just that. The end result: improved student achievement and fewer discipline problems.

Fahd Mirza said...

It reminds me of my school years (not long ago, just 10 years ago), when even asking a question from a teacher was considered somewhat hostile, let alone an open discussion. I studied in a private, so called upper class school. I hear things are changing slowly and teachers dont act like a monster anymore.

Deb Sistrunk said...

Fahd, thanks for stopping by. I definitely understand what you are talking about. Yes, things are changing. The change is happening faster in some cultures than in others. Without question, there are many good educators. Teaching, I believe, is one of our most noble professions.

Your comment reminds me of a not-so-pleasant experience I had in elementary school. We students were grading our own math assignments. When the teacher gave the answer to one problem, she gave the wrong answer. Knowing this, I presumed she made a mistake.

After we completed the grading of papers, the teacher asked everyone who made a perfect grade to stand. I stood, intending to tell the teacher of the error. Before I could say anything, the teacher accused me of lying. I was humiliated before the class.

I tried to explain why I stood up. She shut me up and kept me after class. THEN she told me that she intentionally gave the wrong answer to the problem in question. She said she wanted to see how honest her students were.

In any case, I never understood what I was supposed to learn from that experience. As I recall, I don't think she ever provided an explanation of her actions to the entire class. But the experience terrified many of us.

Jaimie said...

dcs: that's terrible! that was really a trick. and look, you still remember the event.

brianw said...

This works in schools in the UK too.
When students are given a say in the way their schools are run then it makes them feel more valued, more responsive and more responsible too.

Deb Sistrunk said...

Jaimie, you're right. It was not a pleasant experience!

Brian, it is good to hear about how this works in the UK. Thanks so much for stopping by. I hope you'll visit again.

letter shredder said...

student activism is encouraged in the university where i was from. and i have MANY friends who participate. so when i watch reports about them being caught by the police, i cant help but name faces.