How listening to student voices can inform and strengthen social justice research and practice

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Katherine Cumings Mansfield, Associate Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: Purpose: The purpose of this research article is to illustrate the value of including students’ voices in educational leadership and research practices, to more fully understand what students are actually experiencing in transformative learning spaces, and to determine what we might learn from them in terms of how to improve both leadership practice and our research efforts. Method: The first 2 years of an ongoing ethnography used participant observation, photography, a student survey, and focus group interviews to discover and describe the emergent school culture and the lived experiences of female secondary students in a single-sex public magnet school. Findings: Findings illumine why the young women in this study chose to attend an all-female STEM academy and what makes their schooling experiences at this particular school different from their prior experiences. Students’ voices also bring to the fore unintended negative consequences associated with attending a school devoted to social justice praxis and point to the ways leadership practices must evolve to provide an even more powerful, transformative learning space that better meet students’ needs. Implications: Findings have implications for leadership preparation programs as well as continuing professional development. That is, true transformative and social justice leadership is not static or linear. Rather, it is a fluid process that is dialectical and requires adaptation based on new knowledge and interaction with people and with systems. Moreover, findings implicate the need for educational leadership researchers concerned with social justice to include listening to students’ voices in their research endeavors to more adequately capture the lived experiences of students as well as promote more inclusive research and practice.

Additional Information

Educational Administration Quarterly, 50(3), 392-430
Language: English
Date: 2014
leadership for social justice, transformative leadership, student voice, gender, race/ethnicity, single-sex schooling, STEM

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