Student voice

How do you empower student voice in your classroom or school?  Once again, I’m going to adjust the question this week for #youredustory.  How do I empower students in my classroom or school?  Student voice is one key element of empowering students.  However, voice without action, talk without walk doesn’t empower students to engage and be change agents.  The key to this is in mind is relationships.  In my classroom, it starts with listening.  Active listening is the yang to the yin of student voice.  Active listening is not listening with one ear while focusing on doing something else, it is not listening till you hear the thought/answer/contribution you were fishing for but it is the listening where the contribution shared is acted upon.  Do you challenge the contribution, do you rebut or do you encourage further contributions and promote collaboration, student voice needs active participation to grow.  Student voice must lead to student action as Nick Jackson states here and the level of student action within your classroom or school is your measure of how empowered your students are at your school.  It still perplexes me when students ask “are you sure I am allowed to do that” before engaging with a project.  In my classroom this statement doesn’t hang around for long, it soon becomes “this is what I plan to do and achieve and I’ll share my findings once I’m done” or “what do you think of what I have done”.   Either way, the student has taken action and not on my command or direction but with their own and (sometimes) with my consultation.

At my school, we have Digital Leaders in our Primary Years and Student Techs in our Senior Years.  You can read about our Digital Leader program here and here.  Our Student Techs work on our Helpdesk as a direct response to a student survey that I had completed that analysed the relationship between students and the IT department.  These students had absolutely ripped through our previous team and so I asked them to help us to help them.  As a result, they now assist students with their technical issues, image new computers, talk to staff about computer difficulties and work on some passion projects.  A really interesting element to this whole process has been that fellow students walk past them when they are trying to assist and seek out the adult.  To rectify this, I have told the guys to design some tee-shirts.  Below is one of the designs and the correspondence between us…it truly is theirs.

Screenshot 2015-03-21 20.28.15

To end this post, I am not going to share a story about my classroom but about the empowerment that I believe is needed to shift education to meet the needs of today’s youth.  It is once again from the Oz Digital Leader movement and it is a blog post outlining student observations and opinions following their participation at a teacher conference. Click on the image to visit the blog.

Screenshot 2015-03-21 21.01.10



2 thoughts on “Student voice

Add yours

  1. Hi Steve great post. The blog post you finished with by Hannah and Brandon is really insightful. I have been putting a bit of thought into this space myself. The questions I always feel needs asking when talking about ‘student voice’ is on whose terms are we ‘allowing’ for student voice? Where does the idea of student voice actually come from? An increased empowerment of the student to do what? Does the idea of increasing student voice under an already state mandated curriculum really push towards true student voice or is it actually a regulating of the voice in some other fashion?

    Student voice, or the broader field of student participation is a term associated with ‘new times’ (globalisation, individualisation and democratisation) and is loosely associated with the increased awareness and discourse around children’s rights. While initially the idea of increasing the ability for all students to have a voice and actively participate in their own learning would appear to be a positive evolution of our education system, potentially another case could be argued rising from analysis requiring an investigation into the ways in which children are governed and invited to govern in the name of participation. Is there such a thing as true “student voice’ within established hierarchical structures such as our education system?

    These are all tricky and important question.

    When I was at a school I encouraged ‘student voice’ while operating in a Apple only environment – the technology actually controls the language. Was it possible to aim for student voice or self directed learning in such a predetermined environment?? Im not sure? I feel it is tricky to assume that it is actually a simple fait accompli to decide to enact student voice when potentially the system itself is designed to completely deny it.

    What do you think?

    1. Thanks for commenting Kynan, insightful and thought provoking as always. I think you are right on the money when you ask the question “where does student voice actually come from?” Student voice means different things to different people and it implies that prior to this movement in the education sphere, students were not “allowed” to have voice. I don’t think that this is the case. Students have always had a voice but there just needs to be clarity around what that actually has looked (sounded) like. Rebellion, disdain, protest are the images that jump to mind for me when I think of student voice.

      I do believe that the aim is the increased empowerment of students and this is an interesting notion in a system that as you say completely denies it. You could also possibly argue that many teachers have no voice in this system either. As I write this I am left with way more questions than answers (which is a good thing). I do think that the so called level playing field of a common curriculum really has just left us stuck with a bloated environment with no room for movement, innovation or voice. Would love to know your thoughts?

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