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Sharing their wor[l]ds: Appreciating student’s voices in strength-based youth leadership development

Students have an important contribution to make in helping adults understand what their lives are like and how they learn best. However, within schools in particular, young people are frequently positioned within deficit discourses—as vessels needing to be filled, or broken beings that require fixing, resulting in them more likely to be positioned as passive recipients of policy and practice as opposed to active agents of change (Roberts & Nash, 2009). This article examines the implementation of an alternative approach to enhancing student leadership in five New Zealand high schools and argues for the powerful nature of strength-based learning opportunities, which shifts the focus from “what needs improving” to “what might be possible”. This research project engaged appreciative inquiry to transform the focus of a traditional teaching and learning relationship and bring adults and young people together in a learning partnership that focused attention on their desired needs and voices—aligning these with the students’ strengths, and positive dimensions of their leadership formation. Critical to this work was the formation of youth-adult partnerships, which created new opportunities and relational spaces for students to share their voices and experience learner agency. The findings from this research provide privileged insights into the wor[l]ds of student leaders.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
McNae, R. E. (2018). Sharing their wor[l]ds: Appreciating student’s voices in strength-based youth leadership development. Journal of Ethical Educational Leadership, (Special Issue), 137–153.
This article has been published in the Journal of Ethical Educational Leadership. Used with permission.