25 SES 12, Children's Participation and Play: Constructing a democratic culture
Children have the right to participate by law. Correspondent articles can be found in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (United Nations, 1990, p. 5) and also in local school law in Switzerland, for example in the Canton of Zurich (Kantonsrat Zürich, 2005). Participation of students in school is an extensively discussed topic in current scientific literature. There is a wide variety of definitions, understandings and terms used to describe student participation. This presentation aims to clarify the use of this concept.
A systematic literature review produced 325 articles published between 2014 and 2016. From this number, 126 articles from different continents fulfill the selection criteria of topic (student participation in school), age group (primary and secondary school) and language (English or German).
The results show that student participation is discussed in five contexts: democratic education, children’s rights, well-being, learning and school practice. After comparing similarities and differences within the five contexts, three attributes which characterize student participation became apparent: considering others, the power relation between students and teachers and change that can be stimulated by participation. These contexts and the content of the discussion about student participation demonstrate that the process of changing schools from a place where teachers rule to one where teachers and students work together is ongoing. Participation is not only a way to change school life but also a phenomenon in constant flux itself.
The presentation is based on a literature review which was realized by the project team “strengthen participation – improve school” at the Center of School Improvement of the Zurich University of Teacher Education. The applied method for the literature review was a combination of systematic and rapid review (Petticrew & Roberts, 2006, p. 39f.). Systematic because the goal was to identify relevant studies to answer the research question and it was rapid because restrictions as to time, search engine and text type were set. Selecting articles for the review took place in three steps: first, a literature search was conducted according to search criteria. Using ERIC, Web of Science and a German search engine called Fachinformationssystem Bildung (FIS Bildung), articles corresponding to at least one of the following keyword combinations were searched: “student participation” AND school; Partizipation AND Schule; “student voice” AND school; Mitbestimmung AND Schule; “democratic education”; Demokratiepädagogik. This search yielded 325 articles. Second, abstract and title of the articles were read and based on defined selection criteria articles were temporarily selected (164) or definitely excluded (161). Third, the temporarily selected articles were read and the defined selection criteria were applied to the entire articles. Subsequently, articles were definitely selected (126) or definitely excluded (38). In order to make the content of the definitely selected articles accessible for further analysis, we took systematic notes which included the following subjects: brief description of content; regional background of the article; terms used to describe participation; frequently cited sources; explanations, definitions and measurement of participation; context; and conclusion. Based on these notes, we outlined different contexts in which participation was a topic. Once the contexts were carved out, the content of the articles in each context was assessed using the following questions: 1. How do the authors describe student participation? 2. What do the articles within one context have in common and how do they differ? Following these questions, in an inductive procedure, we outlined each context and searched for patterns within the contexts. Later on, we compared the contexts with each other and looked for patterns between the contexts.
The literature review led to five contexts in which student participation was discussed: democratic education, children’s rights, well-being, learning and school practice. Furthermore, it revealed three attributes which were common in all five contexts. The attributes can be seen as a common precondition of student participation. The presentation contributes to the clarification of the discourse about student participation. It explains in what contexts student participation is discussed. The five contexts and three attributes, which seem to be requirements of student participation, can be deliberated after the presentation. The presenters are interested whether the audience can confirm the five contexts and three attributes. They welcome the audience to discuss additional contexts and attributes of student participation, which did not result from the literature review presented. Since the literature review, which considered articles only in English and German, indicated that the discourse about student participation differs on different continents, it would be interesting to hear what experiences the audience has had with the discourse about student participation in languages other than English and German. Based on the results of the literature review, a more general question can be raised: What are the consequences if children’s rights can be understood so differently – that a very broad discourse exists instead of a clear implementation in practice?
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 Petticrew, M., & Roberts, H. (2006). Systematic Reviews in the Social Sciences: A Practical Guide. Malden, Oxford, Carlton: Blackwell Publishing. 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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