It would be a brave (or foolish) teacher who disagreed with the assertion that children learn best when they are active participants in the process of their learning. Indeed, you might well question whether learning could really take place at all if there was no such participation. But how many of us go beyond this assertion, beyond simply expecting pupils to be involved, to consider what the conditions are under which this desirable outcome is achieved?
The authors of this guide firmly believe that schools should devote themselves to finding the answers to such questions. However, they also believe that we should not stop there, just considering teaching and learning, but should find ways of involving students also in school management, evaluation, staff development, resources management and external relations. They assert that student involvement in such areas will lead to school improvement.
In all the research I have read on school improvement, I cannot recall any which identified such high levels of participation as contributory factors, but that might be because there are very few schools which have adopted the practices suggested here. I can imagine that your hackles may well have risen at the list of areas mentioned above, and as headteacher of a very conventional school I felt the same when first reading some of the chapter headings. However, there is a good deal of thought-provoking material here.
The authors intend the pack to be used for in-service training in a variety of ways, and it follows the usual Framework Press format of a photocopiable loose-leaf binder. The first chapter is designed to elicit staff perceptions of, and attitudes to, student participation in the six elements of school life listed above.
The second looks at ways of involving students in school working groups and at how to help teachers become assertive when involved in such meetings. The remaining six modules cover each of the six areas.
The one on teaching and learning is good, and nearly every teacher would benefit from looking at the case studies and working through the materials. There are also some good ideas in the module on external relations. The section on student involvement in staff development is not as threatening as it sounds, being rather more concerned with getting teachers to consider students' needs when, for example, planning new courses.
The authors, however, never tackle one of the major objections to student involvement in school and resource management that school staff have to take a longer view than students. This fact alone is likely to limit the adoption of their ideas severely.