Tips on Student Engagement
> Tip 1: Assess your organization's readiness to involve youth in school evaluation and reform.
Boards tend to work effectively with youth, if, prior to including youth members, they are willing to:
Once your board has decided it is willing to make adjustments and accommodations for youth representatives, some of the following actions would be appropriate for your board to take.
- be flexible with meeting times in order to accommodate school schedules;
- reframe their culture: from doing things to and for youth to working with youth;
- give up some time related efficiency while new members are becoming comfortable with the culture of the board and the use of Robert's Rules of Order;
- make some adjustment to the way the board supports its members (paying young people in advance for their expenses, providing snacks at meetings, and/or explaining the young person's role to parents).
Adapted from "Preparing Your Board for Youth Involvement: Assessing Your Readiness," Power of an Untapped Resource, Association of Alaska School Boards.
- Propose the idea of having younger members on your board. Remember, change is often feared; be persistent and let the other members get comfortable with the idea
- Have a vision for what the board could achieve by youth representation and share it with your board members
- Counter the stories you hear about "kids these days" with positive examples of youth in your community
- Personally invite youth to attend the meeting as a guest.
> Tip 2: Clearly define the goals of the project.
Student engagement strategies have many possible goals. Identify whether the emphases will be on youth empowerment, research quality, and/or community change.
> Tip 3: Be open to the findings of student engagement work.
The organization's leadership must make a commitment to listen to the findings and recommendations upon completion of the project.
> Tip 4: Encourage broad student participation.
Students who might not ordinarily volunteer to participate in a leadership activity should be encouraged to participate.
> Tip 5: Provide appropriate adult support.
Set deadlines and make sure that adult facilitators are available to provide guidance and assistance as needed.
> Tip 6: Build capacity among adults.
To build capacity, teachers or others interested in training to be a facilitator should "shadow" the experienced facilitator throughout the process.
> Tip 7: Be mindful of terms used.
Language matters. Student researchers should be referred to by their adult counterparts and fellow student-researchers as "researchers" or "colleagues."
> Tip 8: Don't make materials for students look like tests.
Surveys do not have to look or feel like tests.
> Tip 9: Allow time for reflection.
Design structured time for students to reflect on the experiences.
> Tip 10: Promote public visibility.
Attention is good. Spread the word about exciting new projects involving students within the home community and the educational community.
After an article in Education Week described the Opportunity Gap project, several urban and suburban districts from across the country contacted the researchers and asked to be included in the survey population. All told, the researchers sent out over 5,000 additional surveys (on top of the 5,000 already distributed in the original tristate area).
> Tip 11: Use technology to engage young people.
Using relevant technology increases the likelihood that young people will participate in larger numbers and in more meaningful ways.
> More on using technology to engage students in school improvement.