25 SES 16, Students' Views on Their Voice and Participation in Education
Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (United Nations, 1990, p. 5) which deals with children’s participation made its way into local education law (Kantonsrat Zürich, 2005). It is known that a law is almost never accurately transferred into practice since implementation is based upon a process of interpretation (Spillane, 2004, p. 60). This leads to the questions of if and how schools implement the law of student participation.
The project “strengthen participation – improve school” of the Center of School Improvement at the Zurich University of Teacher Education uses a mixed-methods-design and a longitudinal data framework to investigate student participation in five Swiss schools. The project focuses on three aspects of the implementation: (1) the school member’s understanding of student participation, (2) the practices of student participation and (3) if and how those schools defined the topic as a school improvement objective. This presentation will cover parts of the second aspect.
There are many theoretical approaches focusing on participation such as the participation ladder designed by Hart (1992), participation in the focus of learning democracy (Biesta, 2011; Oser & Biedermann, 2006) or children’s rights (Lundy, 2007). These approaches were important impetus for our project which aims to achieve a dense description and deep understanding of student participation in school.
Numerous studies focusing on student participation base their arguments on children’s rights: articles mention that schools often implement student participation insufficiently and only in the sense of tokenism (Fleming, 2015). But there are also examples of schools where students do have the right to participate (e.g., Hartwig & Laubenstein, 2014). Several concrete examples of how student participation is present in schools (e.g., Mitra, Serriere, & Kirshner, 2014; Nelson, 2015; Niia, Almqvist, Brunnberg, & Granlund, 2015; Posti-Ahokas & Lehtomaki, 2014) and discussed in the literature (Brantefors & Quennerstedt, 2016; Gonzalez, Hernandez-Saca, & Artiles, 2017) can be found. Still, Edler (2014) points out that schools lack the implementation of student participation and claims for more participation in order to implement the law. Even though there are many examples of student participation described in the current literature, there is still room for improvement regarding implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Therefore, further investigation of the topic in schools to distinguish changes is needed.
The focus of our presentation lies on student participation at the whole school level in five Swiss schools. Therefore, the presentation will ask the following research questions: How and why does student participation take place, and what correlations to structural and personal characteristics exist? Additionally, we investigate whether there is a difference between the views of students and teachers.
The presentation demonstrates how student participation is realized in five Swiss schools and whether there are requirements for further improvement in order to implement student participation. Links to results from other countries can be discussed and found.
It highlights the student view of student participation as well as that of teachers, school leaders and other school staff. This allows us to draw conclusions about different perceptions of the implementation of Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the follow up question: Is a law only successfully implemented if students perceive it or is it already implemented if teachers report its implementation?
To answer the research questions mentioned above, data from the longitudinal and mixed methods project “strengthen participation – improve school” are used. The longitudinal research project began in 2015 and will conclude this year. It is financially supported by the Mercator Foundation Switzerland. Data was collected in five schools in the Canton of Zurich, Switzerland: one school covered all compulsory grades (kindergarten to 9th grade), two primary schools (kindergarten to 6thgrade) and two secondary schools (7th to 9th grade). While qualitative data was obtained from students in all grades, quantitative data analysis was conducted with students in grades 4 through 9. Additionally, we acquired qualitative and quantitative data from school leaders, teachers and other school staff. The project includes two waves of data collection. For this presentation we use second wave quantitative data results, which were conducted in 2017, since, at this point, schools have dealt with the topic for at least one year. Quantitative data was evaluated descriptively, bivariate and multivariate: Means of the scales will be presented as well as t-tests which show if the views of students and teachers differ. Furthermore, regression analysis will be carried out to investigate effects of structural (such as class size) and personal (such as sex and (not) having positive attitudes towards school) characteristics on student participation. An almost complete inventory count was achieved within the five schools.
The results give hints as to whether and how Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child regarding student participation is implemented in school. Furthermore, they reveal whether students and teachers have similar or different perceptions of student participation, as implemented in the five schools. Additionally, the results show which structural and personal characteristics, for example the student’s sex, influence student participation. In sum, the results illustrate whether there is a requirement to improve the status quo in order to facilitate a better implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. They also confirm in which areas the law about student participation is already implemented. Preliminary results indicate that in the view of adult stakeholders at school, the law of student participation is implemented quite broadly. Students experience it differently, however. In their view, there are areas where participation is insufficiently implemented. Furthermore, the perception of student participation correlates in some matters with the student’s sex: Female students experience more participation than male students. For the perception of teachers regarding student participation, their sex does not matter. Students who enjoy going to school perceive more student participation in school than students who show less enthusiasm in attending school. In the presentation these results will be explained and further results will be presented.
Biesta, G. J. J. (2011). Learning Democracy in School and Society: Education, Lifelong Learning, and the Politics of Citizenship. Rotterdam; Boston: Sense Publishers. Brantefors, L., & Quennerstedt, A. (2016). Teaching and learning children’s human rights: A research synthesis. Cogent Education, 3(1), 1247610. https://doi.org/10.1080/2331186X.2016.1247610 Edler, K. (2014). Lust auf Verantwortung. Was macht Beteiligung attraktiv - und was kann dafür getan werden? Pädagogik (Weinheim), 66(11), 10–. Fleming, D. (2015). Student Voice: An Emerging Discourse in Irish Education Policy. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, 8(2), 223–242. Gonzalez, T. E., Hernandez-Saca, D. I., & Artiles, A. J. (2017). In search of voice: theory and methods in K-12 student voice research in the US, 1990–2010. Educational Review, 69(4), 451–473. https://doi.org/10.1080/00131911.2016.1231661 Hart, R. A. (1992). Children’s Participation: From Tokenism to Citizenship (Innocenti Essays No. 4). Florenz: Unicef. Retrieved from https://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/childrens_participation.pdf Hartwig, A., & Laubenstein, D. (2014). Menschenrechte auch für Kinder? Über Selbst- und Mitbestimmungsrechte an einer Demokratischen Schule. Zeitschrift für Heilpädagogik, (7), 267–272. Spillane, J. P. (2004). Standards deviation: how schools misunderstand education policy ([2nd ed.]). Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Kantonsrat Zürich. Volksschulgesetz (VSG) (2005). Retrieved from http://www2.zhlex.zh.ch/appl/zhlex_r.nsf/0/13EF955B1682B079C12573B50025B2CC/$file/412.100_7.2.05_59.pdf Lundy, L. (2007). ‘Voice’ is not enough: conceptualising Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. British Educational Research Journal, 33, 927–942. https://doi.org/10.1080/01411920701657033 Mitra, D., Serriere, S., & Kirshner, B. (2014). Youth Participation in US Contexts: Student Voice Without a National Mandate. Children & Society, 28(4), 292–304. https://doi.org/10.1111/chso.12005 Nelson, E. (2015). Opening Up to Student Voice: Supporting Teacher Learning Through Collaborative Action Research. Learning Landscapes, 8(2), 285–299. Niia, A., Almqvist, L., Brunnberg, E., & Granlund, M. (2015). Student Participation and Parental Involvement in Relation to Academic Achievement. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 59(3), 297–315. https://doi.org/10.1080/00313831.2014.904421 Oser, F., & Biedermann, H. (2006). Partizipation – ein Begriff, der ein Meister der Verwirrung ist. In C. Quesel & F. Oser (Eds.), Die Mühen der Freiheit: Probleme und Chancen der Partizipation von Kindern und Jugendlichen (pp. 17–37). Zürich: Rüegger. Posti-Ahokas, H., & Lehtomaki, E. (2014). The significance of student voice: female students’ interpretations of failure in Tanzanian secondary education. Gender and Education, 26(4), 338–355. https://doi.org/10.1080/09540253.2014.907392 United Nations. UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (1990). Retrieved from https://www.unicef.org.uk/what-we-do/un-convention-child-rights/
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