Saturday, September 29, 2012

Student-Led Class Meetings

Leachman, G., Victor, D. "Student-Led Class Meetings."Educational Leadership. 60.6 (March 2003): 64-68. Web. 29 Sep. 2012. 

This summary pertains to an article titled "Student-Led Class Meetings. Both Gayanee Leachman and Deanna Victor are classroom teachers with ten years of experience who grew frustrated with the ineffectiveness of extrinsic motivation. They conducted research and implemented strategies such as multiple intelligence research, project based learning, and student-developed rubrics. Although all of these strategies proved effective in their classrooms, the most effective method they found for increasing student empathy and resourcefulness in problem solving was student-led classroom meetings.

They implemented a process outlined by Paravision and developed by Karen Benson of the California State University, Sacramento. Her process outlines four steps:
     "-The author of the issue shares the idea or concern.
       -The class asks clarifying questions.
       -Everyone brainstorms possible solutions.
       -The author of the issue selects a resolution (not a punishment) that is consistent with the class constitution  
          and that the "offender", if one exists, consents to. "
Other strategies that they researched included putting desks in a circle, following up on old issues, and including complements and celebrations in the meetings.

Although students lead the meetings, teachers play an important role. Before using community meetings with your class, the teacher must explicitly teach problem solving and cooperation. They must also plan several community building activities so that the classroom is seen as a safe space. Even with this training, the authors assert that community meetings are not a "quick fix", but take time to implement and work. Issues often don't get resolved the first time, and the teacher must be willing to give up curriculum time to allow room for regular community meetings.

The authors go on to cite research from Dewy, Bowlby and Ainsworth, Glasser, and Kohn to support why community meetings work. All of these researchers assert that a student's needs must be met, including the feeling of safety and an attachment to others before learning can occur. In addition Kohn states that extrinsic motivation actually decreases the student's desire to do the right thing

The article concludes with various activities that you can use in your classroom to build the necessary community environment before your first meeting. 

I found this article relevant to my teaching, because I am working with a very difficult group of students this year. In the first week of school, we had bullying, gossip, and cliques forming. We have tried many things, some successful, some not to help build community and safety on our team. I think community meetings may be a good way for my students to take ownership of the culture of our classroom and to become problem solvers. This article also struck me, because my team met in the beginning of the year to outline the skills we wanted students to leave sixth grade with. Two of the main skills we established were team work and resourcefulness. From this article, it seems that community meetings would help to foster both.

Relevant Quotes/Concepts:

~"With no demand to produce a product, class meetings propelled by student-generated issues offered practice in really hearing another person's point of view. As a result, students were more sensitive t one another and more willing to deal with and resolve issues--both during regular class time and during class meetings." (64-65)

~"Besides improving students' motivation, reliability, and involvement in class activities, the meetings increased our students' sensitivity, caring, and ability to cooperate with classmates. Student-led meetings became a vehicle for promoting many other positive characteristics as well: self-reliance, critical thinking, problem-solving skills, empathy, and a sense of community." (66)

Text Sources:

Child Development Project. (1996). Ways we want our class to be: Class meetings tat build commitment to
      kindness and caring. Oakland, CA: Developmental Studies Center.

Child Development Project (1997). Among friends: Classrooms where caring and learning prevail. Oakland, CA:
      Developmental Studies Center.

Kohn, A. (1993). Punishment by rewards: The trouble with gold stars, incentive plans, A's, praise, and other
       bribes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Nelson, J. (1987). Positive discipline in the classroom. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing.


Stacey Caillier said...


This sounds like a great article, and I love the connections you made to your own practice in reflecting on it! I'm curious if you found any of the activities they discussed particularly compelling and if you will try any of them?

I also liked that you included the structure for the class meeting as they did it. It could be interesting to compare this to other approaches to class meetings. For example, Summerhill School is a great book focused on a democratic school and how they use community meetings. Loni Philbrick-Linzmeyer (now at HTHCV) did her research on a similar structure she began in her room. She would be a great Living Resource for you!

Keep reading! I love seeing what you are finding!

mslittlefield said...


I tried my first meeting Monday. I modeled how to lead it using the format above. I am excited to have a student facilitate the next one, and to look into a variety of structures to find one that gels with the students and me. The kids are starting to take accountability and work well together. Woo Hoo!!!!

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