A great follow-up to our recently published white paper, Sharing Student Voice: Students Presenting at Conferences (More about this resource | Download PDF) is the Ladder of Youth Participation by Roger Hart.
This is nicely described on the Freechild.org website, as a representation of the levels of youth participation in community development activities. In the diagram, the bottom three rungs represent non-participation, while the rest represent increasing levels of participation. This is an important point when planning youth participation in adult events. The hope is that students are not there as mere tokens, but that they are there to give voice to the results of their authentic participation in a real activity, or, to actually participate in an activity with the chance of long-term results.
In the white paper, I describe how how conference participation can be part of the continuous process in which youth action becomes youth voice. It can be a way to climb that ladder. Here’s a sample:
Enabling student voice is more than simply listening to students. While it is tempting to think that the act of students speaking at a conference enables student voice, it is dependent on the students having something authentic to share with the audience. It might be more effective to think of conference presentations as “sharing” student voice, rather than enabling it. (from Sharing Student Voice: Students Presenting at Conferences PDF)
Resources like the Ladder of Youth Participation are tools that can help adults who facilitate student activities think through the choices and practices that they are faced with every day.