Student-Driven Individual Education Planning

Meaningful Student Involvement takes many forms in many different ways. Over the next week I’m going to explore some of those different ways that Meaningful Student Involvement happens throughout the education system today. Here are some of my thoughts on students as individual education planners, meaning that they’re planning their own learning in some way, shape or form.
Imagine if you will, before the beginning of the school year, every educator receives a file. The student, their previous teachers, and their parents all participated equally in creating this file. In it is a description of the child, learning goals and objectives for the year, particular learning needs and focus areas, and past evaluations of the student’s learning, completed by the student, their previous teacher, and their parents. This “student-driven Individual Education Plan” (IEP) is developed with every student, regardless of age, grade, ability, or achievement, focusing on the student as a partner in his or her own education.
While there are currently few schools developing student-driven IEPs for every student, the effectiveness of this approach to education planning has been echoed for many years. Students with disabilities have been using these tools successfully in many schools, with large increases in students’ focus and motivation, more support for students in mainstream classrooms, and more (Wehmeyer, 1998). The responsibility of a student’s progress is not just on the shoulders of the adults, but shared with the student. The student becomes eager to track his progress in specific IEP objectives, such as reading speed and accuracy, sentence writing and paragraph skills, math fact fluency, self-control behaviors and self-advocacy (Koegel & Kern-Koegel, 1995).
The student-driven IEP is a written document that has been historically used with developmentally disabled students. However, according to Michael Wehmeyer’s 1998 Making It Happen: Student Involvement in Education, Planning, Decision-making and Instruction, these activities shouldn’t only happen for them. IEPs are written documents that outline a student’s education. The plan is individualized, meaning that it is tailored to each student’s needs and wants in their own learning. What works for one student doesn’t work for the next. The assumption behind standardized education and the one-size-fits-all approach of schools today is that by learning in tandem with everyone around them students will better “fit in” in the world around them. IEPs shake of that ignorance by acknowledging each learner’s individual abilities and challenges – because every learner has them! Creating IEPs with all students would allow every student recognize what they need to grow and learn during a school year, in terms of supports and abilities, challenges and strengths.
Each IEP should outline:
  • the student’s goals are for themselves during the year,
  • the supports students identify they need for themselves to succeed throughout the year,
  • a plan for how students can meet those goals using the supports they’ve identified,
  • and a way for students to self-evaluate how they are progressing throughout the year
The student’s goals shouldn’t just be a collection of ideas on how schools can educate students; instead they should be concrete learning goals that meet basic standards while pushing every student to new horizons within their own conceptions of success.

Every student should have an opportunity to create their own IEP. They can engage their parents, their teachers, nonprofit community-based youth workers, and other adult allies from throughout their lives. They can also engage their peers or siblings as they see fit.
The student-driven IEP should be driven by each student from the time they’re new to school and beyond. In this way, engaging students as individual education planners can provide an opportunity for every student to experience Meaningful Student Involvement. Read the rest of this section and find more examples at www.SoundOut.org.
This was adapted from Stories of Meaningful Student Involvement, copyright 2005 Adam Fletcher.

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