Student participation: student leadership of ICT policymaking in a secondary school
AbstractWhile the body of research on student voice focusing mainly on the rights of students as espoused in the UN (1989) Convention on the Rights of the Child has grown, little work has been done on the relationship between students and leadership (Mitra and Gross, 2009). The impetus for this study are arguments of Smyth (2006), which suggest that it is time for schools to move away from old regimes to a different kind of educational leadership that encourages authentic forms of student participation. He proposes ‘learner-centred policy generation’ as a more inclusive, more democratic way of generating school policies. Such arguments are akin to Luckin’s (2008) plea for the development of learner-generated contexts in educational technology, which she argues is a “more democratic learning economy ... where the balance between learner and teacher or mentor control is constantly changing” (p 461). Her arguments hinge on the fact that we are now faced with the situation in schools where many students know more than their teachers about digital learning tools. Democracy itself has been described as fragile (Osler and Starkey, 2006 p 433) partly because there is much variation in its scope, and in its interpretation, and also because democratic practice needs continual validation if it is to be successful. But undoubtedly the essence of democracy is the exposure of different perspectives, which makes it worth aspiring for in the school setting.In this presentation I report on a study that examines the extent to which an ethos of shared planning and decision-making might be developed through student leadership to improve learning with ICT at an independent secondary school in England. 25 students (referred to as student researchers) aged between 14 and 19 at the school participate in an action research project to develop policy recommendations on how to improve teaching and learning with ICT, which they present to the school’s senior management team. I give an account of the process of organising these students as researchers and on some of the consequences of their involvement. The student researchers were volunteers from three sections of my computer applications course. During the autumn 2009 term they designed questionnaires used to survey teachers and students at the school. They met regularly with the High School Technology Consortium—a group consisting of administrators, teachers and student council representatives—to reflect on their data collection strategies and on the data. The consortium served as ‘critical friends’ to assist them with developing the recommendations on learning with ICT and met four times during the project. In order to gather a range of perceptions about involving students in school ICT policymaking participants of the project were interviewed. The initial findings indicate that (a) students have a desire to play a leading role in ICT for learning, (b) teachers and administrators are willing to share power with them in the process of developing school ICT policy, and (c) there is need for an atmosphere of shared planning and decision-making about teaching and learning with ICT in school.
TypeConference paper (reviewed)