Taking part in a project, such as running a club or renovating a garden, can prevent pupils becoming disengaged from education, research suggests.
The Demos study indicated working on a pupil-led "co-production" with teachers and school staff improved behaviour, confidence and social skills.
The think tank set up projects in four schools in England over the 2013-14 and 2014-15 academic years.
A total of 64 Key Stage 3 pupils (11- to 14-year-olds) worked with 15 staff.
The projects were:
In a survey carried out after the completion of the project, 45% of pupils saw an improvement in behaviour and there was an 11% drop in the number of students reporting they were frequently getting into trouble at school.
Many staff and students also said their relationships had improved, because the traditional teacher-student model had been redefined when working together in a more relaxed and informal way.
"[It's helped with] most things - like my social skills, like interacting with other people. I think I've got better with my anger, and like helping out with people."
"I have more confidence talking to people and bringing my ideas out. If I want to say something, I'll just say it now. [It's helped me] to speak to other people… teachers. Because you speak differently with friends to how you do with teachers."
"What I like is not just getting out of lessons - you come and discuss about how to make changes. Getting to choose what you want to change in school and why."
Ian Wybron, author of the report, Pupil Power, said: "Disengagement from learning is a widespread and persistent problem in education, wasting the potential of learners, closing doors to good jobs, and ultimately harming the wider economy.
"Co-production offers a new way of approaching the problem - empowering disengaged students to take charge over their learning and to run their own projects, giving them new reasons to want to be in school.
"Our experience has shown how challenging this process can be, but also its enormous potential to encourage pupils whose experience in education might previously have been defined by their disengagement to be seen in a new light, grow in confidence, and make positive contributions to their school community. "
The Demos report called the study a "small-scale pathfinder", adding research with a bigger sample of schools would build a "clearer picture" of the positive impacts seen in its research.
Good Tidings We Bring – Compass Support and Greenwood Academy young people spread Christmas cheer to older members of the Community - Tyburn Mail January 2016
Life at a Birmingham secondary school is to be featured in a new TV series.
The pupils and staff at Greenwood Academy in Castle Vale are to be the stars of Our School, starting on CBBC on January 4 for 15 weeks.
Like another Educating Yorkshire or Educating Cardiff but aimed firmly at children, the series focuses on the ups and downs of Year Seven, the first year at the secondary school.
We follow the new pupils as they find their feet, make new friends and face tricky dilemmas.
They have to deal with a range of issues from autism and dyslexia to family bereavement, unruly behaviour and the rights and wrongs of using social media.
But there’s fun too, including school trips and the big talent show which brings the year to a close.
Greenwood Academy is already used to being in the TV spotlight, having been visited by comedian Jack Whitehall to hand out GCSE results live on BBC news in August.
In the first episode of Our School we meet Eesa, who doesn’t speak a word of English and has never been to school before.
The year seven girls form their own football team and have to find a captain. Taylor Jay and Charlie write a report for the school website on what the head teacher does all day – and are shocked to find that Mr French starts work at 6am.
Episode four features the emotional challenges of Izaak and Misty, while Thomas and Vanessa are both bright students who find it hard to behave. Can Shakespeare help save the day for Thomas and will Vanessa go back to being future head girl material?
The school trip sees them heading back to Victorian times, while tall Lucy needs to build up her confidence.
Spencer and Charlie research their family histories in episode nine and we follow the efforts of Leo, who has ADHD and autism.
Episode 10 sees the students help support a local homeless charity by finding out how tough it is to sleep on the streets.
Spencer and Rhea are looking for healthy options for the school dinners’ menu, but some pupils seem to think this should include burgers and hot dogs.
The pupils set up a comic book club, throw themselves into cheer-leading and expose their hidden talents
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