Student-Educator Collaboration for School Change Enacts Voice, Agency, and Action

Model approaches across the country are developing many ways to engage students in learning to improve their community and acquiring the skills and dispositions to do so. One organization promoting this is UP for Learning, a program that involves students and teachers together to rethink how their school works to make learning meaningful. We need to see far more schools engaging students in real responsibility for improving their community — but it’s exciting to see models that are working and that will hopefully inspire imitators around the country.

The UP for Learning mission:

to shift the youth-adult relationship at the heart of education to partnership, and to increase youth agency. This ensures that all young people have opportunities, support, knowledge, and skills to pursue active roles in their learning, their lives, and their community.

UP for Learning pursues this by supporting student-educator partnerships and processes to rethink how learning happens within individual schools. As explained on their website:

UP for Learning helps educational institutions across the country fully engage students in their own learning and in school redesign. We utilize research-based models that reshape the student-teacher relationship to one of shared ownership and shared responsibility. UP offers strategies, tools, and ongoing coaching to ensure that learning is engaging for everyone and youth are fully empowered.

You can view a ten-minute video here to see what this collaborative re-thinking process looks like in a number of schools in Vermont. It’s pretty exciting, though of course it depends on the commitment of teachers and administrators so that listening and openness to change is supported. UP for Learning proposes six principles to make this approach work:

This is just one way to engage young people in real-world civic responsibility. It doesn’t connect students to a wider community, but it does invite them to experience the process of real improvement in the more local world that they live in every day.