Developing Student Participatory Skills in an Urban Middle School

Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

John R. Murray


This thesis contains a manual for a student government program designed to teach students of urban middle schools to think critically and creatively about the issues of responsibility and caring. Most existing student government programs have been constructed for high school students, and do not take into consideration the special developmental stages and needs of the middle school student. This thesis develops a participatory model of middle school student government in which the entire school population participates. When authority within a school is decentralized and students empowered, the stage is set and structure provided for critical and creative thinking to begin. In this thesis the most recent research on the biological, cognitive, socio-emotional, and political developmental stages as well as the needs of early adolescents are examined. Studies on citizenship, responsibility and caring are also reviewed. Urban middle school education is discussed as well as moral education, participation, and methods for teaching/developing critical and creative thinking and moral reasoning. This thesis contains a working teacher's manual with procedures and over fifty reproducible activities for those interested in setting up an inclusive student government program. For each group - the student council, the after-school service club, and the student body - four lessons (introductory, implementation, maintenance, and evaluation) are included in the manual. Step-by-step procedures and research theory accompany each lesson. The results of this highly successful student government program, which was developed over a ten year period of time, are presented through the use of student reflections and surveys of the students, staff, and the faculty advisor.


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