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Student Design Teams

Listening sessions for students, designed by students

In the fall of 2021, district leadership committed to facilitate listening sessions across high schools regarding school safety. With that commitment came an opportunity to try a more student-centered approach. We developed a shared belief that something designed for you should be designed by you, so in this context, listening sessions for students were designed by students. 

We started with a fluid structure that involved school-based teams at our high schools. Student leadership was at the forefront throughout the process and resulted in a student centered and driven format. The insights and information reported by students were invaluable and had a profound impact on district leaders and the school board. Upon reflecting on their experience, students shared their desire to continue these teams into the next school year. The design teams:

  • Identified multiple topics including mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual safety and overall mental health.
  • Recruited classmates to engage in participatory exercises allowing for unique styles of engagement. 
  • Listened, took notes, and engaged in two-way communication with their peers. 
  • Organized and reviewed data and presented that information to adults. 

Fast forward to Winter 2023, we now have five student design teams, with the addition of Kent Laboratory Academy. Students are actively meeting, have expanded their membership, and are using the information from their prior listening sessions to strategize for action. 

Our goal is to continue to grow these teams’ impact by implementing the Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) framework that aligns with our design team process. The YPAR reinforces that students are researchers and change makers. As these teams evolve, they will stay focused on skill development among students in inquiry, evidence, and presentation. Also, teams will remain action-oriented, providing data from their research findings that can illuminate the issues and solutions that are important to students.

YPAR Framework can:

Redefine who has the expertise to produce knowledge — not only professional adult researchers but young people who are living the issues.

Provide skills in inquiry, evidence, and presentation important to student development as agents of positive change.

Generate findings that provide insights into issues experienced by young people and resources that matter to help solve these issues.

Promote young people’s sociopolitical development and psychological empowerment to understand root problems facing their communities and have the skills and motivation to take action.

Evaluate programs, policies, and practices that affect young people.