Panel K.04 — Leadership and active student participation: democratic citizenship, well-being and inclusion in the secondary school

Convenors Giulia Gabriella Pastori (University of Milan-Bicocca, Italy); Guido Benvenuto (University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’)



The panel focuses on the issue of student leadership and active participation in schools as a key lever for promoting well-being, inclusion, and democratic citizenship skills and, ultimately, educational success.

The international scholarly debate increasingly articulates and urgently recognizes a broad vision of human education in the educational and didactic experience of school, concerning key educational dimensions such as well-being, inclusion, and democratic citizenship (OECD, 2017 Eurydice, 2018; UNESCO 2014). These are seen as multidimensional constructs related to the learning and so-called school success of all students, particularly those in the most fragile conditions (OECD, 2018). This view radically challenges the traditional school context, where students are predominantly ‘positioned’ as passive recipients – passivity emphasized during the period of distance learning (UNESCO, 2021) – with few opportunities to exercise leadership and agency, in learning processes, school life and its organization in general.

Although in Italian schools, and those of many countries around the world, there are forms of student participation and representation (from school and class councils to student committees), participation in school often seems to be reduced to a mechanical formality, not able to bring the voice and desires of young people to the center. And despite studies on the educational effectiveness of active and experiential teaching approaches, rooted in a democratic culture and a relationship-dense school climate, school learning environments still too often suffer from a transmissive approach.

In the formative and sociocultural context of school, it is now more crucial than ever to create the conditions for students to have a voice and influence the places where they live (Welty & Lundy, 2013), to develop a critical outlook on the world, to have an active and proactive role in the learning journey, to concretely experience rights and duties and to participate in choices and decisions, take responsibility for planning and action – in short, offering a school that is a place of life and democracy (Dewey, 1916) – to preserve the meaning of school experience, motivating, including, achieving ever-expanding goals of social justice and fostering an ethos based on community, cooperation and solidarity.

The panel will feature contributions, both national and international, related to empirical research in school settings, preferably secondary school settings, that delve into the central themes presented, through qualitative, quantitative, and mixed approaches of exploratory and transformative research, making original contributions on student and teacher perspectives on school, educational and didactic innovations and school improvement processes, focusing on the active role of students, their agency and active citizenship.


Guidelines and abstracts submission