Young people’s perspectives, positive or negative, are incredibly important for anyone who’s designing or redesigning a high school. After all, they’re the ones our schools must serve!
Adolescents feel empowered and involved when adults authentically engage them in the decisions that affect their lives. Go out and talk to young people, both inside your local schools and in other places where students get together and learn. A local community center is a really good place to start.
Invite students to reflect on occasions when learning has been deep and rewarding for them. Ask them about experiences that were negative or that they wish had been better or more fulfilling. Ask them about what happened during COVID-related school closures.
Be sure to seek out the opinions of those whose voices aren’t often heard, including students with disabilities, young people who have dropped out of school, and disengaged or struggling students. Their experiences will help you see what’s missing from high school today and what needs to change.
Try asking young people about their vision for the future, the things they care about, their aspirations for themselves and their community, their dream school. Think about their true needs—and how you might inspire them to stretch their ambitions:
For more questions like these, see the XQ Youth Voice Cards.
We can learn from young people in a range of ways. UNICEF shares a visual describing the eight levels of youth participation, from nonparticipation to child-initiated decision-making.Explore
Use XQ’s Youth Voice cards to get conversations going with young people.
Make a plan to engage with a wide range of young people, in person and virtually, through interviews, meetings, focus groups, surveys, and informal conversations. To find students who are willing to talk, try reaching out to adults they trust: teachers, mentors, coaches, and afterschool providers. Be sure to take notes and record what you hear.
Share findings with your team and explore these questions: