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Module 2

Youth Experience and Aspirations

What can adolescents teach us about high school?

Young people need schools they can believe in, so they can invest in their learning, identify their aspirations, and create pathways to success.

How can we empower young people to contribute to conversations about education? How can we encourage adults to listen deeply to a broad range of young people?  How can we hold ourselves accountable to partner with young people as they expand the power of their voices into action?

To create a student-centered high school, start by putting young people at the center of the design process. Be sure to include students on your team, and use various methods—interviews, town hall meetings, roundtables, and surveys, both in person and virtual—to gather feedback from lots of young people. Make the extra effort to reach the most marginalized youth in your school or community, and ensure their voices are heard.

Listening to young people isn’t a one-time thing. Start authentic conversations now, and build them into every aspect of your school design.

Questions to Explore and Discuss

1. Young people need engaging, challenging learning environments. They also need to feel safe, and a deep sense of belonging. What features should be included in these learning environments? What roles will adolescents play in creating them?

2. What do young people think about their current schools? What is their relationship to their community? Are students getting the right opportunities to build their identities and develop the skills and knowledge they need to realize their goals for the future?

3. Where—besides school—are young people learning? What types of experiences are available? What patterns do you see? What do young people say about what they learn from these experiences and why they value them?

4. How do students in your community experience remote and hybrid learning? How engaged were they during school closures? What lessons did you learn, positive and negative, about their preferences and the challenges they face?