25 SES 01 A, Children's participation and teachers' perceptions and practices
Introduction – Although student participation is required by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and many school laws, this is no guarantee for its implementation in everyday school life, because the implementation of such laws is “constructed through conversation among teachers, administrators, and external experts” (Spillane, 2004, p. 60). And tensions may exist between social and legal demands and its realization in everyday school life. Therefore, it is important to investigate how these tensions are dealt with and how student participation is realized in schools. This contribution will show how student participation takes place in daily routines and how it is perceived by students and teachers.
Current research – Research indicates that student participation occurs in different areas of school life such as school and class councils (e.g. Andersson, 2019; Brückmann& Lippert, 2014), creating individual learning plans (e.g. Quinn & Owen, 2016) and project weeks (e.g. Hecht & Hartmann, 2014). Despite several known areas where student participation occurs, and the fact that students do wish to participate (e.g. Müller-Kuhn, 2020), many students do not perceive school as a place of shared decisions and possibilities for participation (Forde et al., 2018). Students do not feel heard (Keisu&Ahlström, 2020) and they rarely have the opportunity to actually make an impact (Andersson, 2019).
Embedding – The presentation continues what we presented at ECER 2018 in Bolzano. There, we used quantitative data from the Swiss research project “Strengthen Participation – Improve School” to show (1) how students and teachers perceive the student participation situation in their school, and (2) which interrelations of student participation with student characteristics exist. Due to further discussion and suggestions at the afore-mentioned session, we included participant observation data.
Research question – The focus of this year's contribution is on the synthesis of quantitative and participant observation data. In doing so, we will primarily investigate the following questions from the observer’s point of view:
- How does student participation appear in the daily routine of Swiss primary and secondary schools?
- Can interrelations between student characteristics and student participation be perceived?
Additionally we will show students’ and teachers’ perceptions of student participation as well as interrelations between student participation and students’ characteristics.
From these two types of data we will draw a joint conclusion.
Data base – The research material we use for this presentation is part of the Swiss study “Strengthen Participation – Improve School” which was collected by the Center for School Improvement of the Zurich University of Teacher Education. Two types of data from the second wave of data collection were used based on a convergent mixed methods design (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2018): participant observation data from school visits and quantitative data from an online survey. The different types of data were used to report on the various parts of the research question. Participant observation data – The principal focus of our analysis is based on participant observation data from school visits in six classes across five different schools. Three classes were in upper primary school (grades 4 to 6; students aged 9 to 12), and the other three classes were in lower secondary school (grades 7 to 9; students aged 12 to 15). In total, 48 hours of multi-sited participant observations were conducted. The participant observation data were used to obtain insights into the existing practice and to discover what the concrete implementation of participation in the practice of everyday school life looked like. This method allowed us to capture the implementation of participation in daily routines. Furthermore, we explored interrelations between participation and student characteristics in everyday school life. Quantitative data – The additionally presented quantitative analysis is based on survey data from 762 students and 182 teachers which we have analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics. The quantitative data were used to investigate how students and teachers perceive participation in school, as these data gave us insights into the self-assessment of students and teachers. Furthermore, the data were used to investigate interrelations between the perception of student participation and students’ characteristics.
Student participation in the daily practice – The analysis shows that many teachers involved students in decision-making processes. Students received that opportunity or just took the chance to verbalize a concern or opinion. But classroom observations also showed that teachers in secondary schools often rely on teaching approaches based on direct instruction, while in primary school a wider variety of teaching approaches were observed. Student participation – at least to some extent – is perceived by both students and teachers and appears in daily practice. Interrelations – Participation is linked to some student characteristics. As such, the participant observation data confirmed the self-assessment by the students and current literature (e.g. Rieker et al., 2016), concerning age respective to school level: The older the students were – the less participation they perceived. Regarding the interrelations between the students’ gender and participation, differences between the two types of data were found. Conclusion – In conclusion, student participation is not yet a self-evident attitude. Secondary schools have not yet internalized student participation. Primary schools are further developed in this area. It takes time for schools to reduce the tensions between social and legal demands and the realization in everyday school life. Research can support schools in that endeavor. Quantitative data may help to survey the bigger relationships and existing inequality within the classroom and focus on certain groups, while participant observation data enables us to take a closer look at individual situations. Viewing these situations in their unique contexts can be also a helpful tool for each teacher to approach and improve their teaching practice.
Andersson, E. (2019). The School as a Public Space for Democratic Experiences: Formal Student Participation and Its Political Characteristics. Education, Citizenship and Social Justice, 14(2), 149–164. https://doi.org/10.1177/1746197918776657 Brückmann, B., & Lippert, H. (2014). Schülerbeteiligung von Anfang an. Vom Klassenrat bis zur verantwortlichen Gestaltung des eigenen Lernens. Pädagogik (Weinheim), 66(11), 24–28. Creswell, J. W., & Plano Clark, V. L. (2018). Designing and conducting mixed methods research (Third Edition). SAGE. Forde, C., Horgan, D., Martin, S., & Parkes, A. (2018). Learning from children’s voice in schools: Experiences from Ireland. Journal of Educational Change, 19(4), 489–509. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10833-018-9331-6 Keisu, B.-I., &Ahlström, B. (2020). The Silent Voices: Pupil Participation for Gender Equality and Diversity. Educational Research, 62(1), 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1080/00131881.2019.1711436 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(6), 927–942. https://doi.org/10.1080/01411920701657033 Mager, U., & Nowak, P. (2012). Effects of Student Participation in Decision Making at School. A Systematic Review and Synthesis of Empirical Research. Educational Research Review, 7(1), 38–61. ERIC. http://search.proquest.com/docview/964177303?accountid=15920 Müller-Kuhn, D. (2020). Ja, wir wollen! Partizipationswünsche von Schülerinnen und Schülern sowie Lehrpersonen. In S. Thomas & J. Rothmaler (Eds.), Partizipation in der Bildungsforschung (pp. 291–323). BeltzJuventa. Nelson, E. (2018). Teachers and Power in Student Voice: ‘Finger on the Pulse, not Children Under the Thumb.’ In R. Bourke & J. Loveridge (Eds.), Radical Collegiality through Student Voice: Educational Experience, Policy and Practice (pp. 197–216). Springer. Quinn, S., & Owen, S. (2016). Digging deeper: Understanding the power of “student voice.” Australian Journal of Education, 60(1), 60–72. https://doi.org/10.1177/0004944115626402 Rieker, P., Mörgen, R., Schnitzer, A., &Stroezel, H. (2016). Partizipation von Kindern und Jugendlichen. Formen, Bedingungen sowie Möglichkeiten der Mitwirkung und Mitbestimmung in der Schweiz. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften. Spillane, J. P. (2004). Standards deviation. How schools misunderstand education policy. Harvard University Press. UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), (1989). https://www.unicef.org.uk/what-we-do/un-convention-child-rights/ Zala-Mezö, E., Datnow, A., Müller-Kuhn, D., &Häbig, J. (2020). Feeding back research results – Changes in principal and teacher narratives about student participation. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 65, 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.stueduc.2020.100848
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