Understandings of what engages and motivates students are central to socio-cultural perspectives on learning. Teachers were particularly struck by the effect the Critical Connections project had on some disaffected students. Teachers also noticed a dramatic change in classroom dynamics. In the Critical Connections project teachers showed faith in their students' abilities and created a safe space for creative and critical expression of their agentive selves. Feeding back on this point at a team meeting, teachers commented on how parents were really involved. Parents were also struck by the change of attitude in their children when it came to homework related to the project. Drawing on the understanding that self-regulated learning is based on motivational as well as metacognitive processes, captured in the phrase will and skill'. The collaboration with students from other schools also proved a positive and eye-opening experience for the student co-researchers, developing the attitudes and skills required for active citizenship.