Universiteit Leiden

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Increasing student participation in schools

Young people have the right to be involved in decision-making on matters that affect them, including their education. Ben Smit, researcher at ICLON, studied how to increase student participation, among other things through participation in research. Defence on 6 September.

Student participation is not mainstream

Young people have the right to be involved in decision-making on matters that concern them, such as their schooling. Moreover, you should take them seriously in their views and suggestions on these matters. Unfortunately, involving pupils in decision-making is not a common practice in schools. Nor does it come up in teacher training.

Smit therefore explored an approach that prepares student teachers to promote pupil participation in decision-making in schools. Teachers are increasingly expected to be involved in research. Teacher education programmes should prepare students accordingly. For example, student teachers can involve pupils in conducting research during their school placement. Participatory action research (PAR) is central to Smit's thesis. It is an approach ideally suited to prepare teachers-in-training for participatory practices in schools.

Cover of thesis Dimensions of student participation

More than just having a voice

Pupils and their teachers worked together to design and conduct research on their own teaching. The aim was to enable pupils to collaborate with their teachers at an intensive level. This allowed them to actually influence changes in teaching practice. The research also showed the need for a higher level of pupil participation than just having a voice and being able to express opinions. Recognising the different abilities and perspectives of both pupils and their teachers is essential in this.

Promoting pupil participation

Conducting a PAR project in collaboration with pupils helps support student teachers in developing positive attitudes towards student participation. This research can provide schools and teacher-training institutions with tools to implement pupil participation in decision-making processes. Or to develop it further, taking into account opportunities and complications. The study developed a matrix for describing and setting up participatory research practices (the SPinSTAR matrix). This distinguishes four levels of participation during different research phases.

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