Building Youth-Adult Partnerships

Youth-adult partnership can unleash a previously unknown source for problem solving and change. The resources here will spark ideas and help you nurture these vital relationships.

Toolkit_mentoringJust as student centered learning requires a partnership between youth and adults, building public understanding for change must be built upon this same fundamental partnership between the two largest stakeholder groups in education. Yet, time and time again, students are overlooked as co-constructors of learning and players in education redesign. Unfortunately, there remains a pervasive societal belief that high school students are too young, too immature, or not yet wise enough to contribute in a meaningful way. This could not be further from the truth.

Of course, educators bring a wealth of professional expertise to school redesign efforts: a systems level perspective, a wide array of skills accrued over time and responsiveness to change over time. Less understood is the fact that young people hold a perspective of the learning experience adults cannot fully fathom.  They are highly invested in shaping the world that will hold their life story and they possess a deep desire to make a difference now. Young people have the wisdom, creativity, and proven capacity to partner in school remodeling efforts, ensuring its integrity.

Toolkit_youthadultpartners_photo1Building relationships between youth and adults benefits both parties. For youth, working closely with adults toward shared goals seeds the skills and confidence for lifelong learning and civic engagement. For adults, working closely with youth creates the opportunity to learn from the insights and unique perspectives of youth, often renewing their professional sense of purpose and shifting teaching toward more student-centered practices.

To start, you may wish to evaluate the level of partnership that exist in your current programs using a tool such as this Youth-Adult Partnership Rubric created by Michigan State University. You can learn more about the ways in which schools are fostering authentic relationships between youth and adults working to create change together through these videos, featuring the work of Youth and Adults Transforming Schools Together (YATST) and UP for Learning.

The integrity of this working partnership is tied to mutual respect, equity in an on-going exchange of ideas, and shared responsibility. When young people are challenged to bring forth their best efforts, adults similarly rise to the occasion. Both parties grow in their understanding and commitment to change, grappling with the complexity of the school change process from the diverse perspectives of both key stakeholder groups.

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