Assessing Student Participation at School: Developing a Multidimensional Scale

Anderson, D.L., Graham, A.P. and Thomas, Nigel Patrick orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-5310-9144 (2019) Assessing Student Participation at School: Developing a Multidimensional Scale. International Journal of Student Voice, 5 (1).

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In the past few years there has been a growing interest in student participation at school, and in whether participation is connected with student wellbeing or with academic success. One problem when studying student participation is that it seems to mean different things to different people. For some people it is just about students attending school and going to lessons. For others it is about students making decisions about things that matter to them, or being part of “student voice” activities at school. Another problem is that we do not have good ways to measure how well schools are doing at student participation, with tools that take account of the different ways that students can participate. This article reports how a new tool has been created to measure student participation. The new tool is called the Student Participation Scale. It was created in New South Wales (NSW), Australia. The researchers read books and articles on student participation. They also talked to school staff and students to find out what student participation meant to them, and they asked them about what questions should go into the tool. Once they created the Student Participation Scale, the researchers tested it on 1,435 secondary school students. The Scale asks 38 questions to measure six types or “elements” of student participation:
Students working together with peers and school staff,
Students having a voice about schooling,
Students having a say with influential people at school,
Students having influence on decisions made at school,
Students having a voice about school activities outside of the classroom, and
Students having choice.
These elements of student participation were the same for boys and girls, for different grade or year groups, for students who spoke English as a second language, for students from an Indigenous background, and for students with a disability. The Scale was also consistent and valid. That is, it measured what the researchers said it would measure. The Student Participation Scale is easy and free for schools to use. It can be used to measure which elements of participation are happening most, and which ones schools might try to improve. There is also a guidebook that has instructions and tips for using the Scale in schools.

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