Assessing the Conditions for Student Voice by Michael Fielding

This article was originally published as “Assessing the Conditions for Student Voice” and was written by Michael Fielding of the University of Sussex. It was originally published in FORUM Vol. 43, No. 2 in Summer 2001. It is included here with permission from author.

  • Who is allowed to speak?
  • To whom are they allowed to speak?
  • What are they allowed to speak about?
  • What language is encouraged / allowed?
  • Who decides the answer to these questions?
  • How are those decisions made?
  • How, when, where, to whom and how often are those decisions communicated?
  • Who is listening?
  • Why are they listening?
  • How are they listening?
  • Are the skills of dialogue encouraged and supported through training or other appropriate means?
  • Are those skills understood, developed and practised within the context of democratic values and dispositions?
  • Are those skills themselves transformed by those values and dispositions?
Attitudes & Dispositions
  • How do those involved regard each other?
  • To what degree are the principle of equal value and the dispositions of care felt reciprocally and demonstrated through the reality of daily encounter?
  • How often does dialogue and encounter in which student voice is centrally important occur?
  • Who decides?
  • How do the systems enshrining the value and necessity of student voice mesh with or relate to other organisational arrangements (particularly those involving adults)?
Organisational Culture
  • Do the cultural norms and values of the school proclaim the centrality of student voice within the context of education as a shared responsibility and shared achievement?
  • Do the practices, traditions and routine daily encounters demonstrate values supportive of student voice?
  • Where are the public spaces (physical and metaphorical) in which these encounters might take place?
  • Who controls them?
  • What values shape their being and their use?
  • What action is taken?
  • Who feels responsible?
  • What happens if aspirations and good intentions are not realised?
The Future
  • Do we need new structures?
  • Do we need new ways of relating to each other?

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Published by Adam Fletcher

Adam is the founding director of SoundOut. An author, speaker and consultant, he has worked with K-12 schools, districts, nonprofits and others for more than 15 years. Learn more about him at

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