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Students as Learners and Teachers: Taking Responsibility, Transforming Education, and Redefining Accountability



As has been the case throughout the history of education in the United States, the current structures and practices of U.S. schools and colleges are informed by particular ideals regarding the potential of education. Through this comparative descriptive analysis, I argue that a major reason why these ideals have rarely been realized is the way that students are positioned in educational institutions, dialogues, and reform. A preliminary argument for rethinking how we conceptualize student role and responsibility frames my description and comparison of two programs, one that involves secondary students in the preparation of high school teachers and one that involves college students in the professional development of college faculty. I then draw on the perspectives of student participants across these two programs to address a series of educational ideals that span K–12 and college contexts: inspiring lasting learning, celebrating humanity and diversity, and engaging in meaningful assessment. I designed the programs that are the focus of my analysis with the goal of improving teacher preparation and teaching, but as I discuss in this article, they are proving to be promising models for pursuing what may be a more encompassing possibility: fostering in students a sense of and capacity for responsibility in ways that not only address existing educational ideals but that also point to both more transformative and more achievable notions of education and accountability than those currently in place.