Journal of Educational Change

, 9:221 | Cite as

Balancing power in communities of practice: An examination of increasing student voice through school-based youth–adult partnerships

  • Dana L. MitraEmail author


This article examines how power imbalances influence the formation of student voice initiatives, which are defined as school-based youth–adult partnerships that consist of youth and adults contributing to decision making processes, learning from one another, and promoting change. Using the concept of community of practice as a lens, the paper examines the ways in which power influences the mutual engagement, shared repertoire, and joint enterprise of youth–adult partnerships. Specifically, the study finds that the following strategies can strengthen student voice initiatives: building meaningful roles based upon mutual responsibility and respect among all members; developing shared language and norms, and developing joint enterprises aimed at fostering voices that have previously been silenced from decision making and knowledge-building processes.


Student voice Community of practice Youth–adult partnerships Power Educational change Civic engagement Professional learning community Knowledge generation 



I wish to thank Dorie Evensen, Benjamin Kirshner, Milbrey McLaughlin, Jim Greeno, and anonymous reviewers for comments on earlier versions of this article. Support for data collection were provided by the Walter S. Johnson Foundation and Penn State University’s College of Education.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Education Policy StudiesPenn State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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