While there is no surefire way to engage students in schools, there are several different approaches that educators found successful in schools across the country. Following is an introduction to the steps educators have shared with me. I call these steps the “Cycle of Student Engagement.”
The first step for any educator who wants to engage students is to listen to student voice. A strange thing often happens when teachers, principals, paraprofessionals, counselors or youth workers want to know something from students about students themselves: They turn to other teachers or parents to find out. “How does Jonaquim feel about school?” “Why does Sharini act out in class?” In some cases, educators turn to student leaders to hear The Student Opinion, perhaps listening to “successful” student leaders expound on testing or curriculum or the school logo. But the average student’s voice is rarely considered.
In schools where students are successfully engaged, the first step to engaging students is simply listening to student voice. There are informal conversations in the hallway; classroom conversations about topics that matter; focus groups with a range of student learners, and; large group forums where students can share and hear a diverse range of student voice. Student voice is intentionally listened to in personal relationships between students and adults, situational responses to immediate issues, and sustainable, structurally-supported opportunities throughout schools.
However, listening to student voice is just the first step. In the most engaging learning environments, students also experience being validated, being authorized, taking action, and reflecting on student engagement. Learn more from the SoundOut Student Voice Tip Sheet.
Then boogy on down to that place in town.