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Student Perspectives on Barriers to Learning: Creating Spaces and Places for Active Engagement

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Abstract:

Leaders often use control and imposition (Lugg & Shoho, 2006) rather than participative, self-organizing processes, reacting to uncertainty and chaos by tightening controls, rather than engaging people's best capacities to learn and adapt (Wheatley, 2005). The onset of rapidly changing dynamics suggest there are trends, hotspots, and dilemmas (www.knowledgeworks.org) relevant to schools and leaders that must be addressed now, and in creative ways, in order to meet the educational needs of today’s and tomorrow’s students, necessitating drastic changes in how we educate young people and prepare school leaders. Students, increasingly disengaged from schools due to intensified educational policies focused on accountability (Smyth, 2006) are uniquely situated to be partners in school and community change. Rather than tightening controls it is essential that we learn ways to engage those most affected in the identification and resolution of potential barriers (Wheatley, 2006a, 2006b). Students are experts on what helps them learn effectively (Fielding, 2007).
This paper reports student-identified barriers to their own learning and strategies for how these barriers can be overcome. Data for this paper come from a three year, mixed methods, multi-site evaluative study of a program called the Leadership in Action Network (LAN) which included over 200 students from eight rural southeast school districts. All eight school districts have high poverty levels and struggled to meet school improvement goals for student achievement. Data for this study include focus group interviews with students, teachers, and administrators; annually administered surveys; field notes; and analysis of action plans and group presentations reporting the results of student-led reform efforts. The purposes of the Leadership in Action Network are to: a) engage non-traditional and traditional student leaders in grades 5-12 in leadership development; b) develop individual (student, teacher leader, and administrator) and organizational leadership capacity in schools through professional development and action learning focused on improving learning and teaching; c) investigate the effectiveness of these networks in solving issues common to the districts; and d) further develop the capacity of local districts to identify and effectively network with local resources.
Student-identified barriers to learning are often similar to those expressed by teacher leaders and principals (Smyth, 2006). Findings suggest the approaches utilized through LAN create a system for fostering innovation through collective reflection, dialogue, and research-based action. Student and adult participants are gaining newfound respect and trust for each other while deepening their relationships. Students indicate they are taking greater responsibility for their own learning while developing a greater tolerance of and appreciation for others. Implications for leaders include increased recognition of the value of listening while embracing all viewpoints, creating spaces for oneself and others to create self-identity and facilitate information-sharing, and the need to respect the essential nature of relationships that allow all participants the right to discover, generate ideas, and collaborate in ways that support learning for all in socially just, democratic ways (Allen, 2006).
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Association:
Name: UCEA Annual Convention
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http://www.ucea.org


Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p377267_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Reed, Cynthia. "Student Perspectives on Barriers to Learning: Creating Spaces and Places for Active Engagement" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the UCEA Annual Convention, Anaheim Marriott, Anaheim, California, <Not Available>. 2014-11-28 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p377267_index.html>

APA Citation:

Reed, C. "Student Perspectives on Barriers to Learning: Creating Spaces and Places for Active Engagement" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the UCEA Annual Convention, Anaheim Marriott, Anaheim, California <Not Available>. 2014-11-28 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p377267_index.html

Publication Type: Symposium Paper
Abstract: Leaders often use control and imposition (Lugg & Shoho, 2006) rather than participative, self-organizing processes, reacting to uncertainty and chaos by tightening controls, rather than engaging people's best capacities to learn and adapt (Wheatley, 2005). The onset of rapidly changing dynamics suggest there are trends, hotspots, and dilemmas (www.knowledgeworks.org) relevant to schools and leaders that must be addressed now, and in creative ways, in order to meet the educational needs of today’s and tomorrow’s students, necessitating drastic changes in how we educate young people and prepare school leaders. Students, increasingly disengaged from schools due to intensified educational policies focused on accountability (Smyth, 2006) are uniquely situated to be partners in school and community change. Rather than tightening controls it is essential that we learn ways to engage those most affected in the identification and resolution of potential barriers (Wheatley, 2006a, 2006b). Students are experts on what helps them learn effectively (Fielding, 2007).
This paper reports student-identified barriers to their own learning and strategies for how these barriers can be overcome. Data for this paper come from a three year, mixed methods, multi-site evaluative study of a program called the Leadership in Action Network (LAN) which included over 200 students from eight rural southeast school districts. All eight school districts have high poverty levels and struggled to meet school improvement goals for student achievement. Data for this study include focus group interviews with students, teachers, and administrators; annually administered surveys; field notes; and analysis of action plans and group presentations reporting the results of student-led reform efforts. The purposes of the Leadership in Action Network are to: a) engage non-traditional and traditional student leaders in grades 5-12 in leadership development; b) develop individual (student, teacher leader, and administrator) and organizational leadership capacity in schools through professional development and action learning focused on improving learning and teaching; c) investigate the effectiveness of these networks in solving issues common to the districts; and d) further develop the capacity of local districts to identify and effectively network with local resources.
Student-identified barriers to learning are often similar to those expressed by teacher leaders and principals (Smyth, 2006). Findings suggest the approaches utilized through LAN create a system for fostering innovation through collective reflection, dialogue, and research-based action. Student and adult participants are gaining newfound respect and trust for each other while deepening their relationships. Students indicate they are taking greater responsibility for their own learning while developing a greater tolerance of and appreciation for others. Implications for leaders include increased recognition of the value of listening while embracing all viewpoints, creating spaces for oneself and others to create self-identity and facilitate information-sharing, and the need to respect the essential nature of relationships that allow all participants the right to discover, generate ideas, and collaborate in ways that support learning for all in socially just, democratic ways (Allen, 2006).


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