Adults in each school need to be ready to engage deeply with the youth perspective and share power for decisions about what happens in the school. Where principals play an important role in helping to lead adult mindset shifts at individual schools, a district-level commitment and point person to bring about similar shifts at the District-level can have an additional positive impact.
Beware of mindsets that engage student voice but remain hesitant to follow through on the outcomes. For example:
- Using YPE to find out what students want, so we can do it for them: Once you start to build student ownership, be intentional about continuing to develop it and share power for school experiences.
- Using YPE to find out what students think, so we can get them excited about what we know is good for them: Students bring different perspectives and see things through different eyes. Be sure that next steps build on those perspectives and not just preconceived notions about solutions.
- Using YPE to ask students to support something you have already decided to do: It isn't that your ideas and their ideas will never align. Instead, YPE offers the opportunity for students to understand the perspectives of their fellow students and to communicate those effectively in discussions with adults. All kinds of good ideas are likely to emerge from these strong conversations. Building adult:youth understanding, engagement, and communication can be of great value when they are built authentically.
In Minneapolis, the school district has been employing Youth Participatory Evaluation across its schools for several years, and they have identified the following ways that adults should be prepared in order to see the greatest benefit from YPE. These include:
- All staff in the building need to have a shared understanding of the purpose and value of YPE
- Schools need to ensure spaces exist where youth voice is heard and where students and staff can share power and see themselves as true partners
- Schools need to strive to create an inclusive and democratic school culture that is committed to a growth mindset. This means that both students and staff are committed to embracing challenges and striving to continuously learn and improve
- The system should make strategic decisions that align and support youth voice
These are big shifts, and starting a YPE team alone will not realize them. However, with principal leadership and ongoing conversation and inclusion of educators and school administrators, adults can create additional opportunities to work together during the project that can build inclusive trust between students and adults.
A small set of videos to support this work on adult mindset and culture shifts is available here thanks to the Minneapolis Public Schools. Youth Participatory Evaluation Training Series
Supporting shifts in adult culture and mindset
The Power Of Community
Join our community of education leaders committed to elevating student voices in schools. If you are interested in, or have implemented, a YPE Program or other youth voice effort in your school, we want to help you connect, collaborate, and learn from each other. Ask questions, offer advice, share experiences, and more!