Downes, J. M., Nagle, J., & Bishop, P. A. (2010). Integrating student consultation into teacher professional development: The Middle Grades Collaborative. Current Issues in Middle Level Education, 15(1), 36-44. (Available for download below).
Most professional development for teachers does not involve opportunities for them to hone their practice in direct collaboration with students, which sits in stark contrast to the heavy emphasis placed on student voice in middle grades education. For almost two decades, however, the Middle Grades Collaborative (Collaborative) has offered a week-long, summer institute in which a core pedagogical principle is to actively involve young adolescents in developing classroom practices of the approximately 70 middle grade teachers who participate annually. During this time, middle school students act as consultants and collaborators, experts and panelists. They offer their voice and expertise on issues such as young adolescent needs, classroom and school organization, curriculum development, and classroom assessments.
The purpose of this paper is to describe this practice of including middle grades students as consultants in teachers’ professional development. e begin by briefly providing the context of the Collaborative and its summer institute. Next we describe the theoretical underpinnings and research base that informs the work of the Collaborative. We then provide an overview of 1) the conditions conducive to a collaborative ulture and 2) participant perspectives on student consultation. We conclude by considering how teachers and students might benefit from such practices within the context of their own classrooms and schools.