George Lucas Educational Foundation

How to Foster Student Self Advocacy?

How to Foster Student Self Advocacy?

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What are some ways teachers and schools can both teach and foster self-advocacy? How can we help students tell us (not through their parents) what they themselves need to be successful?

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Dan Callahan's picture
Dan Callahan
Professional Learning Specialist, Edcamper, Graduate Professor

Hi Traci,
This is a great question! I think a part of it has to come from the kind of culture that a school is built around. A culture of compliance, where students are expected to simply follow directions, is never going to build a student body that is self-advocating. Students need to be engaged as a real part of the learning community who are made to feel as if their feelings and opinions matter, are listened to, and are respected.

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Engagement Manager

In situations where the school culture isn't there yet, then it becomes a lot harder. In those situations, it becomes critical for students to find allies amongst teachers, parents, and the administration to support their efforts to be heard and recognized.

The important thing is to do it in a way that doesn't put the "powers that be" on the defensive, which can be a lot trickier than it sounds. It's very easy for people to fall into "us" and "them" camps.

Traci's picture
Educational Coach at Northwest College Support

So, follow up question:
What are the thoughts out there on having students "negotiate" their grades? I feel instructors usually reward students who come and speak with them about concerns on how they did on a test, or why they feel their grades are not reflective of their effort/ knowledge. I think rewarding students for this is a way to not only foster self-advocacy, but is also mimicking what they will find in the "real world." For better or worse, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Dan Callahan's picture
Dan Callahan
Professional Learning Specialist, Edcamper, Graduate Professor

Hi Traci,
Great question, with a deeper problem. Grades are a terribly imperfect measure of learning. If a grade is negotiable, is it truly reflective of the student's understanding? In my school, which has moved to standards-based grading, negotiation of grades is impossible, because the grade simply tells where the student is on a list of standards.

Gwen Pescatore's picture
Gwen Pescatore
President Home & School Assoc, #ParentCamp Organizer, Co-Moderator #PTchat

I started to reply to this question and then, as so often, I see a tweet go by that catches my eye. This one from a #Satchatoc convo. It was a link to a post written by David Price (@DavidPriceOBE) on learner motivation (which I think is tied to a student self-advocating).

He talks about pedagogy (a learner led to a conclusion), vs andragogy (a learner is self-directed, finding their way to a set destination) vs heutagogy (a learner is self-determined and has no set destination or route).

I have to believe that when one is self-directed or better yet, self-determined, they own their learning. There isn't that mindset of waiting for someone else to feed them the information. One has learned to inquire, wonder, ask questions....advocate.

This extends beyond the school walls....parents also need to give their children the opportunity to take the reigns. Not be so quick to jump in. As parents we need to still be informed, stay in the loop...but give them the time and support to advocate for themselves.

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