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The Significance of Students: Can Increasing "Student Voice" in Schools Lead to Gains in Youth Development?


by Dana L. Mitra — 2004

The notion of "student voice," or a student role in the decision making and change efforts of schools, has emerged in the new millennium as a potential strategy for improving the success of school reform efforts. Yet few studies have examined this construct either theoretically or empirically. Grounded in a sociocultural perspective, this article provides some of the first empirical data on youth participation in student voice efforts by identifying how student voice opportunities appear to contribute to "youth development" outcomes in young people. The article finds that student voice activities can create meaningful experiences for youth that help to meet fundamental developmental needsespecially for students who otherwise do not find meaning in their school experiences. Specifically, this research finds a marked consistency in the growth of agency, belonging and competencethree assets that are central to youth development. While these outcomes were consistent across the students in this study, the data demonstrate how the structure of student voice efforts and nature of adult/student relations fundamentally influence the forms of youth development outcomes that emerge.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 106 Number 4, 2004, p. 651-688
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 11531, Date Accessed: 9/22/2017 8:17:55 PM

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About the Author
  • Dana Mitra
    Penn State University
    E-mail Author
    DANA L. MITRA is Assistant Professor of Education in the department of Education Policy Studies at Penn State University. Her research interests include school reform, student voice, school-community collaboration, civic education, youth development, and social policy. She recently published an article in the McGill Journal of Education entitled ‘‘Student Voice in School Reform: Reframing Student-Teacher Relationships.’’ The author wishes to thank Sarah Deschenes, William Frick, Gerald LeTendre, Kimberly Powell, and two anonymous reviewers for their feedback on this paper.
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