25 SES 02 A, Participation to Connect Members of the School Community
Based on school concepts as a polis (e. g. Dewey), the teaching of democratic competence became a school's task. This educational mandate was anchored as aim in educational principles, curricula, and school laws mostly as involvement. However, the Convention on the Rights of the Child assigns schools also the task of involving students in decisions that affect their lives and makes clear that "respect for the views of children is not only a model of good educational practice but a legally binding obligation" (Welty, Lundy, 2013). Since the early 2000s, student participation has also become evident in school improvement theory and participation is understood both as aim and way of school development processes. Consequently, a nuanced understanding of student participation as a self-determined influence on school decision-making processes established. However, empirical findings show that there is still a large gap between normative aspirations and actual practice (e.g., Mager & Nowak, 2012). Based on two representatives surveys of students at the upper secondary level (n1=4101; n2=1864) the contribution outlines the existing levels of democracy and the extent of participation students experience within Austrian schools, and the connections between school culture and student participation. The results indicate that (1) participation offers are relatively low overall and dependent on school-related context (e.g. school climate, student-teacher relationship) and individual characteristics of the students (e.g. age, gender, political interest). Since (2) different participation cultures exist between and within schools, the results show that schools or classes are not always inclusive. To explain which school-related conditions lead to student participation (3) a path model shows which factors are influential at school and class level. To provide an overview and impetus to discuss democratic school development with students, the contribution concludes with discussing the tension between structural conditions, the school's scope for action, and the school's communication spaces.
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, 38–61. Welty, E. & Lundy, L. (2013). A children’s rights based approach to involving children in decision making. Journal of Science Communication 12(03), CO2. https://doi.org/10.22323/2.12030302
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