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Student Action Teams. An Introduction Roger Holdsworth Connect magazine and Australian Youth Research Centre Student Action Teams. An overview of history and process: introduction to ideas about SATs The research evidence Some local examples

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student action teams

Student Action Teams

An Introduction

Roger Holdsworth

Connect magazine and Australian Youth Research Centre

student action teams1
Student Action Teams
  • An overview of history and process: introduction to ideas about SATs
  • The research evidence
  • Some local examples
  • Implementation steps for a school or cluster of schools
  • A workshop - starting off …

Student Action Teams

part a overview of sats
Part A: Overview of SATs
  • Victorian State Program 1999-2002
  • Evaluation Reports and Manual
  • Local developments
  • School operational models
  • Resources available

Student Action Teams


A group of students who identify and work on a real issue of community interest. They carry out research on the issue and develop solutions - either proposals for action by others or action that they themselves take.

Student Action Teams

  • Identification and formation of a student team;
  • Student determination of the project focus: either student choice of the focus, or decision about whether to take it on, and how to approach it;
  • Student engagement in project decision-making and implementation;
  • A focus within the students’ community, preferably beyond the school;
  • Processes of research and action by students that intend to make a difference about the chosen topic within the community.

Student Action Teams

  • Strong school-community linksaround issues of common interest.
  • Value of a community body to commission and support the team’s work, and to be an audience for its outcomes.

Student Action Teams

changed roles
Changed roles…

“In the family, the young remain, while the activities from which they could learn have moved out; in the workplace, the activities from which they could learn remain, but the young themselves have been excluded…

“The student role of young persons has become enlarged to the point where that role constitutes the major portion of their youth. But the student role is not a role of taking action and experiencing consequences… It is a relatively passive role, always in preparation for action, but never acting …”

Student Action Teams

action poverty
Action poverty …

“The consequences of the expansion of the student role, and the action poverty it implies for the young, has been an increased restiveness among the young.

“They are shielded from responsibility, and they become irresponsible; they are held in a dependent status, and they come to act asdependents; they are kept away from productive work, and they become unproductive.”

James Coleman (1972) How do the young become adults?, Johns Hopkins University

Student Action Teams

deferred outcomes
Deferred outcomes
  • Outcomes in schools are deferred to a future - “useful in a job or when you study further”
  • For some students, outcomes of this future are highly uncertain … and they know this
  • But also lessons for all students: “Your only value is in what you will become, not what you are or can do today…”

Student Action Teams

civics and citizenship
Civics and citizenship …

“Learning about democracy and citizenship when I was at school, was a bit like reading holiday brochures in prison…”

Derry Hannam, English School Inspector and adviser/trainer for the Council of Europe on Education for Democratic Citizenship

Student Action Teams

development of strong self concept
Development of strong self-concept

Sense of bonding: with family/peers/community, to feel/be wanted, to feel/be loved, to belong, to have basic needs met

Sense of control: capability, competence, impact on one’s own environment, power over one’s self, use of social/life skills, power to change one’s self and environment




Sense of meaning: to feel important, to feel relevant, self-esteem, sense of dignity/honour, able to accomplish tasks

After Nancy Phillips, 1990

Student Action Teams

victorian state program 1999 2001
Victorian State Program 1999-2001
  • Phase 1:
    • 1999: Teams in 20 Government secondary schools;
    • 2000: 11 refunded for a second year;
    • Partners: Department of Justice (Safer Cities and Shires), Department of Education
    • Focus on ‘Community Safety’
  • Phase 2:
    • 2001: 37 teams in primary and secondary schools;
    • Chosen by Department of Education
    • Partners: Department of Justice (Crime Prevention), Department of Education, VicHealth
    • Focus on ‘Community Based Action

Student Action Teams

victorian state program 1999 20011
Victorian State Program 1999-2001
  • Schools received:
    • Small grants;
    • Orientation meeting;
    • Staff and student training (phase 1);
    • Some local support and professional development;
    • Student/teacher forums (phase 1);
    • Manuals (phase 2).
  • Evaluations:
    • Manual and case studies - phase 1;
    • Implementation evaluation report - phase 1;
    • Impact evaluation report - phase 2.

Student Action Teams

examples of team foci phase 1 1999 2000
Examples of Team Foci: (Phase 1, 1999-2000)
  • Altona SC:Truancy/Student Welfare and Discipline Policy
  • Banksia SC:Safety Week - School and Community Issues
  • Euroa SC:Safety House - Quit
  • Heatherhill SC:Fire Safety Awareness
  • Karingal Park SC:Nat’s Track - Driver Safety
  • Kyneton SC:Skateboarding
  • Melton SC:Youth Safety in Melton
  • Ovens SC:Health Issues Expo - Community Mural
  • Princes Hill SC:Inter-generational Links
  • Wanganui Park SC:Trauma Teddies - Community walk
  • Weeroona College:Road Safety Advertisement and Billboard

Student Action Teams

examples of team foci phase 2 2001
Examples of Team Foci: (Phase 2, 2001)
  • Transition: students researched and produced a booklet and video about primary-secondary transition;
  • Road Safety: students attempted to get a crossing shifted or a roundabout installed;
  • Traffic safety: students made a mural within the school grounds to remind students about road crossing behaviour;
  • Bullying: students researched bullying in the school and community and prodded the school into action;
  • Community facilities: students investigated ways to get access to a community oval.

Student Action Teams

choosing a topic
Choosing a Topic
  • Who chooses?:
    • School decides: This often defines which students; students then decide whether to, and how to.
    • Students decide: Students are recruited to a SAT, then carry out a ‘search process’ within constraints.
    • Community commissions: Arrange with community group to approach students; students then decide whether to and how to.
  • Importance of the topic: relevant, important, achievable - motivating!

Student Action Teams

examples of community commissions
Examples of community commissions:
  • Local Government challenges students to complete youth component of local safety action plan
  • Consultant commissions students to review use of local park
  • Fire Brigade commissions students to investigate and act on causes of house fires
  • Community Residents’ Association commissions students to work on image of suburb

Student Action Teams

principles for collaboration
Principles for collaboration:
  • Early involvement: from the start
  • Find out about groups and choose carefully
  • Negotiate form and extent of involvement
  • Joint planning
  • Clear objectives for all
  • Timelines: commitments and deadlines
  • Plan for flexibility
  • Acknowledge support

Student Action Teams

choosing the students
Choosing the Students
  • Open to all (eg a class group)
  • Targeted (specific students chosen for reasons of engagement, expertise, interest)
  • Inclusive(cross-section)
  • Importance of ensuring that otherwise marginalised students are able to participate

Student Action Teams

school models
School models
  • Ad hoc team of students
    • Meet at lunchtime or withdrawn from classes
  • Part of the Student Council
    • Formed as an ‘action team’ to work on Student Council issues
    • Reports to Student Council
  • Within an existing class
    • A curriculum approach of all or part of the class
    • Meets mandated curriculum requirements
  • As a ‘new’ class
    • Eg formed as an elective

Student Action Teams

forms of credit




Public recognition at assemblies, in the newsletter etc;



Academic Credit:

Within a subject report;

As an extra report;

Listing competencies.


‘Negotiated exemptions’;

Assignment replacement;

Timetabled space

Forms of Credit:

Student Action Teams

  • Students can make serious and important decisions about issues that are important to them;
  • Students can do important and valuable things;
  • Important action can be taken as part of students’ learning in schools.

Student Action Teams

in a student action team students
In a Student Action Team:Students:
  • Decide on and ‘own’ the issue;
  • Research and propose solutions;
  • Act on their research/proposals;
  • Reflect on what they have learnt.

Student Action Teams

some resources
Some resources:

Firstly, Australian Youth Research Centre reports:

  • Holdsworth, Stafford, Stokes and Tyler (2001): Student Action Teams: an Evaluation 1999-2000. Working Paper 21, Australian Youth Research Centre: Melbourne
  • Holdsworth, Cahill and Smith (2003): Student Action Teams Phase 2 - 200102002: An Evaluation of Implementation and Impact. Research Report 22, Australian Youth Research Centre: Melbourne
    • Australian Youth Research CentreFaculty of Education, The University of Melbourne VIC 3010Ph: 03 8344 9633; Fax: 03 8344 9632;

Student Action Teams

some resources1
Some resources:

Secondly, the ‘How To’ Manual is available in South Australia and Victoria:

  • South Australian Office for Youth (2005): Student Action Teams: ‘How To’ Manual.
  • Victorian Department of Education and Training (2001): Learning in the Community: A ‘How To’ Manual for Student Action Teams. At:

Student Action Teams

some resources2
Some resources:

Finally, the documentation of practices continues:

  • Holdsworth (ed) (2006) Student Action Teams: Implementing Productive Practices in Primary and Secondary School Classrooms.Connect: Melbourne (forthcoming - approx. $30)
  • Connect (1979-present): journal supporting student participation: 12 Brooke Street, Northcote Vic 3070;

Annual subscription (6 issues): $30 (org); $20 (indiv)

Student Action Teams