Student Voice is any expression of any student, anywhere, anytime about anything relating to learning, school or the educational experience.
What Does Student Voice Include?
Student voice includes—but isn’t limited to—active or passive participation, knowledge, voting, wisdom, activism, beliefs, service, opinions, leadership, and ideas. Student Voice reflects identity, and comes from a person’s experiences, ideals, and knowledge.
Because they are expressions about learning, school or education, student voice can also include art, handraising, fighting, bullying, classroom participation, speaking at school board meetings, texting, attendance, students teaching, homework completion, self-assertion, tardiness, device usage, student newspapers, websites, evaluations, and much more.
Student Voice is Not the Same as…
- Meaningful student involvement, which is a process for engaging students as partners in school improvement for the sake of education, community, and democracy.
- Student engagement, which is the excitement and investment a young person feels towards learning
- Student participation, which is a self-determined act of students committing to something in school.
Student Voice is About Outcomes.
A growing body of evidence surrounds Student Voice, as more students, educators and researchers identify powerful outcomes.
What Can Student Voice Positively Affect?
Research shows student voice can positively affect many issues throughout schools, including…
- School improvement goals
- Academic achievement
- The “engagement gap”
- Students’ feelings of agency
- Drop out rates
- Retention of students of color
- Curricular effectiveness
- Teachers’ feelings of efficacy
Student Voice is About People.
Any person who participates in a process of learning, including every single student in every classroom in any grade, has a voice that should be engaged in schools.
Who Can Share Student Voice?
- Pre-kindergarten students
- Elementary students
- Junior high/Middle school students
- High school students
- Students of color
- Low-income students
- Low-achieving students
- High-performing students
- ESL/ELL students
- Special needs students
- Disengaged students
- Gifted students
Who Can Listen to Student Voice?
Every adult working in education effectively has authority over students. This gives every adult the moral responsibility to listen to Student Voice.
- Classroom teachers
- Building leaders
- School support staff
- School board members
- District and state school leaders
- Education agency officials
- Education policy-makers
- Curriculum makers
- Education researchers
Student Voice is About Action.
Student Voice allows students to share who they are, what they believe, and why they believe what they do with their peers, parents, teachers, and their entire school. Student Voice can be engaged in dozens of ways in classrooms and schools.
Where Can Student Voice Be Heard?
Literally every activity throughout schools can foster student voice and meaningfully involve learners. Some areas include…
- Classrooms lessons
- Curriculum committees
- Peer mentoring and teaching
- Self, class, and teacher evaluation
- Self- and community advocacy
- Education research
- Teacher training
- Student government
- School site council
- Staff hiring
- Education policy-making
- School governance
Student Voice is About Process.
As the list above shows, there are dozens of ways to actually engage student voice in schools. However, there are five primary steps that every responsible educator should take when working to infuse Student Voice in their practice. These steps make up the Cycle of Engagement.
- Listen to Student Voice. This is a starting point – not a stopping place.
- Validate Students. Acknowledge student voice and let students know you listened.
- Authorize Students. Make new positions and teach new things to give students authority.
- Take Action. Foster Student/Adult Partnerships that transform schools actively.
- Reflect. Think about what happened, what you learned, and what you’ll do different.
Student Voice is About Power.
Power happens in many ways. Sometimes it is given, sometimes it is taken and sometimes it is created. There are many places and ways student voice can have power throughout education.
When does student voice have power?
Student voice inherently has its own power. However, when its systematic, infused, empowered and intentional, student voice can affect schools in wholly new ways. Here are five times when student voice has power:
- Meaningful Student Involvement
- Student/Adult Partnerships
- Student Organizing for Education Reform
- Classroom practices
- Education issues
Student Voice is About Outcomes.
Outcomes happen inside, throughout and afterwards student voice is expressed. Sometimes they are predictable and measurable, while other times they are immeasurable and undefinable.
Student Voice is NOT About…
- Adult-driven agendas
- Adult-determined outcomes
- Only topics adults approve of
- Only things adults want to hear
- Only ways adults can hear it
- Only students adults want to hear from