Monday, April 10, 2017

Short-Term Impacts of Student Listening Circles on Student Perceptions of School Climate and of Their Own Competencies

The primary purpose of this study was to examine the short-term impacts of participation in a student voice facilitation strategy—a Student Listening Circle (SLC)—on student perceptions of their input into decisionmaking at school, their relationships with school staff and peers, school bonding, their competencies for improving the school, and academic self-efficacy. 
The study also examined adult participants' perceptions before and after the SLC and describes how SLCs are conducted in study schools. 
To investigate impacts of SLC participation on students, 90 of the 256 students who volunteered to participate in the study were randomly assigned to participate in the SLC (treatment group). The remaining 166 students did not participate directly in the SLC (control group). The study took place in 9 schools in California, with random assignment conducted within each school. Both groups of students completed surveys to ascertain perceptions of school climate and personal competencies 1 week before SLC implementation, 1 week after SLC implementation, and 12 weeks after SLC implementation. 
SLC impacts were estimated by comparing survey responses between the treatment group and the control group at 1 week and at 12 weeks after SLC implementation. The secondary component of the study used staff surveys to assess changes in adult SLC participants' perceptions of school supports and of student competencies after the SLC, and interviews to assess their perceptions of practices implemented as a result of the SLC. 
The main experimental results of the study found no discernible effects of the SLC on student participants' perceptions of school climate and personal competencies. Descriptive results indicated that participating school staff reported greater average perceptions of students' abilities to contribute to school improvement, trust in students, and perceptions of student opportunities for meaningful participation at school after the SLC than they did before the SLC. Moreover, schools that implemented SLCs followed through with most action steps generated during the SLCs and implemented multiple school improvement practices to address themes suggested during the SLC. 
The fact that this study found no short-term impacts of SLC participation on students' perceptions of school climate or of their competencies does not necessarily mean that there is no value in implementing SLCs. SLCs are intended to produce improvements in the overall school environment, including on such factors as school-wide governance and perceptions of adults and students who do not participate in the SLC. It is possible for the SLC to have no discernable impacts on student participants but to still have impacts on school climate.

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