A Review of “Student Perspectives on School Improvement”

Originally published in Meaningful Student Involvement Research Guide by Adam Fletcher (2004) Olympia, WA: SoundOut.

Review of “Student Perspectives on School Improvement,” by J. Beresford. A paper presented in 2000 at the British Educational Research Association Conference, Cardiff University, Sep. 7-10.

Student Perspectives traces the development of a survey that measures students’ ideas and concerns about particular learning activities in schools. Each activity is explored, combining a review of the literature and findings from empirical research from the survey.

The purpose of the survey was to:

  1. Develop a ‘user-friendly’ instrument to find out the views of students on the classrooms where they learned.
  2. Record students’ views on how schools were run.
  3. Testify to the validity of the student voice in providing information on how schools can improve.

The researcher explored six primary classroom ‘conditions’ that were contended to improve student learning:

  • Self-assessment
  • Independent learning
  • Affinity to teachers
  • Learning repertoire
  • Orientation to learning
  • Adjustment to school

Using data from 6,000 high school-age students in 40 schools across the United Kingdom, combined with a comprehensive literature review, the study presented 24 statements relating to specific teaching activities that are associated with the above classroom conditions. Next, these results were compared to previous studies that measured teachers’ perceptions of the same items.

Findings include:

  • Control is important to students, who frequently cite school attendance, good behavior and finding classroom equipment as primary examples of the things they control in school.
  • Students do not often reflect on school, and feel uncomfortable seeking help from teachers. In the absence of these key components students will find it difficult to assess with any accuracy how well they are doing, and how they can improve.
  • Teachers often have a limited teaching repertoire, and students find many lessons uninteresting and easy to disengage from.
  • Despite this, students generally show positive attitudes toward schoolwork and positive behavior.
  • In the seventh grade, students are generally enthusiastic about their schools. They take greatest care about what they report to parents, they find teachers more helpful than other years, they are extremely enthusiastic about their lessons, claim to work harder than other years and are happier with school rules.
  • Eighth grade boys seem most discontented with school. They appear to be the group least able to self-assess, the group with poorest relationships with teachers, and the group whose self-perception of their own behavior is poorest.
  • Of the girls, tenth graders seem the most discontented. They are the least reflective of their courses, they have the poorest relationships with their teachers and they have most complaints about school rules. Boys show similar traits in eleventh grade.

“Student Perspectives” suggests that the findings derived from the survey provide a useful focus for the dialogue between teachers and students, which is a critical factor in improving students’ learning.

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Student Engagement Trust

The Student Engagement Trust, or SET,  works with primary and secondary schools, academy groups, and educational organisations in the UK and US to advance student engagement in school and learning.

Our work is based upon our Engagement Model, The Classroom Interaction Model of Student Engagement, and is grounded in research, personal beliefs, and years of professional experience, including teaching, school leadership, resource development, writing and publishing articles, presenting keynote addresses, and leading student leadership and staff professional development.

Offsite Link


ESRC Network Project: Consulting Pupils about Teaching and Learning

The ESRC Network Project: Consulting Pupils about Teaching and Learning was based at Cambridge University. It had a variety of aims, among which was seeking to integrate a theory of teaching, learning and attainment with a theory of student voice and participation in school change.

More Info

  • More info about this organization is not available at this time. Please share info in the comments section below.

Learner Leaders

Learner leaders: In the United Kingdom, these students are elected by their peers to regularly represent their interests at governor’s meetings, which are roughly equivalent to district school boards. Learner leaders have been found to:

  • Determine and focus each decision-making experience more definitively;
  • Rely more on new technologies to enhance the decision-making process, and;
  • Enhance the capacity of adults to access the full range of student voice needed to keep school boards responsive and reflective of local communities.

Large questions about the roles of these students exist, how much schools actually train learner-leaders to meaningfully participate in school decision-making; and whether selected decision-making activities empower learner-leaders versus disempowering them from participating.


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Student Voice Revolution: The Meaningful Student Involvement Handbook written by Adam Fletcher published by CommonAction Publishing in 2017.

Articles Examples Organizations


StudentVoice is working to become the representative body for school students in the United Kingdom. Originally called the English Secondary Students Association, StudentVoice supports students in representing their own views on issue around education and schools. They work directly with students, decision-makers and the media.

Currently, the organization facilitates a variety of activities, including training, campaigns and research.

More Info




Feature on Michael Fielding

Michael Fielding is one of the most-recognized researchers in the field of student voice around the world. His work has deeply influenced SoundOut, informing our concept of moving from simply listening to student voice towards Meaningful Student Involvement for every student in every school all of the time.

Michael Fielding was a teacher for more than two decades, focused on practicing radical democratic education. After that, he taught at the universities of Cambridge and Sussex. Today he is the Emeritus Professor of Education at University College London. Michael is one of the key writers in the field of student voice, leading innovative research in the areas of school improvement, educational leadership and radical education.

Learn more about him and contact him at the University College London Institute of Education website.

Michael Fielding Bibliography

  • Fielding, M. (2014) ‘Bringing Freedom to Education’ – Colin Ward, Alex Bloom and the possibility of radical democratic schools In: C. Burke and K. Jones (eds) Education, Childhood and Anarchism: Talking Colin Ward. Routledge, 86-98
  • Fielding, M. and Moss, P. (2014) “L’educazione radicale e la scuola commune: un’alternativa democratic; Parma, edizioni junior,” [Italian translation of Radical Education and the Common School – a democratic alternative (2011)].
  • Fielding, M. (2014) “Beyond the betrayal of democracy in schools: lessons from the past, hopes for the future,” Research in Teacher Education 3 (2) October, 47–50.
  • Fielding, M. (2014) Why co-operative schools should oppose competition and what they might do instead In: T.Woodin (ed) Co-operation, learning and co-operative values: contemporary issues in education Routledge,17-30.
  • Fielding, M. (2014) Democratic fellowship and the practice of human possibility In: R. Marples, J.Suissa and C. Winstanley (eds) Education, Philosophy and Wellbeing: New Perspectives on the Work of John White Abingdon, Routledge, 54-69.
  • Fielding, M. (2014) Radical democratic education as response to two World Wars and a contribution to world peace – the inspirational work of Alex Bloom. Forum 56 (3), 513-527.
  • Fielding, M. (2014) Learning to be Human: The Educational Legacy of John MacmurrayFielding (ed) Routledge.
  • Fielding, M. (2013) Whole School Meetings and the Development of Radical Democratic Community, Studies in Philosophy and Education 32 (2), 123-140. (first published online 13 November, 2010)
  • Fielding, M. (2013) “Gli student: agenti radicali di cambiamento,” In V.Grion and A.Cook-Sather (eds) Student Voice – Prospettive internazionali e pratiche emrgenti in Italia Milan, Angelo Guerini, 62-82. [TRANS: “Students: radical agents of change,” In V. Grion and A.Cook-Sather (eds) Student voice. International perspectives and practices emerging in Italy Milan, Angelo Guerini. 62-82]
  • Fielding, M. and Moss, P. (2012) “Radical democratic education,” American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, Denver August.
  • Fielding, M. (2012) “From student voice to democratic community: new beginnings, radical continuities,” In McMahon, B. (ed) Student Engagement in Urban Schools: Beyond Neo-liberal Discourses, Charlotte,NC, Information Age Publishing, 11-27.
  • Fielding, M. (2012) “Personalisation, Education, Democracy and the Market,” In Mincu, M. (ed) Personalising Education: Theories, Politics and Cultural Contexts Sense Publishers, 75-87.
  • Fielding, M. (2012) “Beyond Student Voice: Patterns of Partnership and the Demands of Deep Democracy (Más Allá De La Voz Del Alumnado: Patrones De Colaboración Y Las Demandas De Una Democracia Profunda),” Journal of Education (Revista de Educación) No 359 Septiembre-diciembre, 45-65.
  • Fielding, M. (2012) “Education as if People Matter: John Macmurray, community and the struggle for democracy,” Oxford Review of Education Vol 38 No 6 December 2012, pp 675-692.
  • Fielding, M. (2012) “Editorial – Learning to be Human: the educational legacy of John Macmurray,” Oxford Review of Education 38 (6) December, 653-692.
  • Fielding, M. (2012) “Introduction to Oxford Review of Education text of John Macmurray’s ‘Learning to be Human’”, Oxford Review of Education 38 (6) December, 661-664.
  • Fielding, M. (2011) “Schools for democracy,” In K. Spours and N.Lawson (eds) Education for the Good Society Compass e-book.
  • Fielding, M. (2011) “Student voice and the possibility of radical democratic education: re-narrating forgotten histories, developing alternative futures,” In: G. Czerniawski and W. Kidd (eds) The Student Voice Handbook: Bridging the Academic/Practitioner Divide. Emerald, 3-17.
  • Fielding, M. (2011) “Patterns of partnership: student voice, intergenerational learning and democratic fellowship,” In N. Mockler and J. Sachs (eds) Rethinking educational practice through reflexive research: Essays in honour of Susan Groundwater-Smith Springer, 61-75.
  • Fielding, M. (2011) “Radical democratic education and emancipatory social pedagogy: prolegomena to a dialogue,” In: Claire Cameron and Peter Moss (eds) Social Pedagogy and Working with Children and Young People: Where Care and Education Meet Jessica Kingsley, 177-194.
  • Fielding, M. (2010) “Student voice and inclusive education: a radical democratic approach to intergenerational learning (La voz del alumnado y la inclusion educativa: una aproximacion democratica radical para el aprendizaje intergeneracional),” Journal of Inter-University Teacher Education (Revista Interuniversitaria de Formacion del Profesorado) 70 (25,1) Abril, 31-61.
  • Fielding, M. and Moss, P. (2010) Radical Education and the Common School – a democratic alternative. Routledge.
  • Fielding, M. (2010) “Whole School Meetings and the Development of Radical Democratic Community,” Studies in Philosophy and Education Published online 13 November.
  • Fielding, M. (2010) “The radical potential of student voice: Creating spaces for restless encounters,” International Journal of Emotional Education Vol 2 No 1 April pp 61-73.
  • Fielding, M. (2010) Transformative Approaches to Student Voice: Theoretical Underpinnings, Recalcitrant Realities, in H. Torrance (ed) Qualitative Research Methods in Education Sage.
  • Fielding, M. (2009) “Public space and educational leadership: reclaiming and renewing our radical traditions,” Educational Management, Administration and Leadership Vol 37 No 4 pp 497– 521.
  • Fielding, M. (2009) “Interrogating student voice: pre-occupations, purposes and Possibilities” In: H. Daniels, H. Lauder and J. Porter (eds) Educational Theories, Cultures and Learning: A Critical Perspective. Routledge pp 101-116.
  • Fielding, M. (2008) “Personalisation, Education and the Market,” Soundings. Issue 38 pp 56-69.
  • Fielding, M. (2007) “Jean Rudduck (1937 – 2007) ‘Carving a New Order of Experience’: a preliminary appreciation of the work of Jean Rudduck in the field of student voice,” Educational Action Research Vol 15 No 3 pp 323-336.
  • Fielding, M. and Robinson, C. (2007) “Children and their Primary Schools: pupils’ voices,” Primary Research Survey 5.3 Cambridge, University of Cambridge Faculty of Education.
  • Fielding, M. (2007) “On the Necessity of Radical State Education: Democracy and the Common School,” Journal of Philosophy of Education Vol 41 No 4 pp 549-557.
  • Fielding, M. (2007) “Beyond ‘voice’: New roles, relations, and contexts in researching with young people,” Discourse Vol 28 No 3 pp 301-310.
  • Fielding, M. (2007) Introduction to the Review Symposium on Improving Learning Through Consulting Pupils Jean Rudduck & Donald McIntyre London: Routledge (2007) Discourse Vol 28 No 3 pp 421-423.
  • Fielding, M. (2007) The Human Cost and Intellectual Poverty of High Performance Schooling: radical philosophy, John Macmurray and the remaking of person-centred education Journal of Education Policy Vol 22 No 4 pp 383-409.
  • Fielding, M. (2006) “Leadership, radical student engagement and the necessity of person-centred education,” International Journal of Leadership in Education Vol 9 No 4 pp 299-313.
  • Fielding, M. (2006) “Leadership, Personalisation & High Performance Schooling: Naming the New Totalitarianism,” School Leadership & Management Vol 26 No 4 pp 347-369.
  • Fielding, M. and Rudduck, J. (2006) Student Voice & the Perils of PopularityEducational Review Vol 58 No 2 pp 219-231.
  • Fielding, M. and Bragg, S. (2005) “’It’s an Equal Thing … It’s About Achieving Together’: Student Voices and the Possibility of a Radical Collegiality” In: H.Street & J.Temperley (eds). Improving Schools Through Collaborative Enquiry. Continuum pp 105-135.
  • Fielding, M. (2005) “Putting Hands Around the Flame: Reclaiming the radical tradition in state education,” Forum Vol 47 Nos 2 & 3 pp 61-69.
  • Fielding, M. (2005) “Alex Bloom: Pioneer of radical state education,” Forum Vol 47 Nos 2 & 3 pp 119– 34.
  • Fielding, M. (2004) “Transformative Approaches to Student Voice: Theoretical Underpinnings, Recalcitrant Realities,” British Educational Research Journal Vol 30 No 2 pp 295-311.
  • Fielding, M. (2004) “‘New Wave’ Student Voice & the Renewal of Civic Society,” London Review of Education Vol 2. No 3 pp 197-217.
  • Fielding, M. and Bragg, S. (2003) Student as Researchers: Making a Difference. Pearsons.
  • Fielding, M. (2003) “Review of ‘What Children Say’ by Andrew Pollard & Pat Triggs,” Journal of Educational Change Vol 4 No 1 pp 81-87.
  • Fielding, M. and Prieto, M. (2002) “The Central Place of Student Voice in Democratic Renewal: A Chilean Case Study,” In: M. Schweisfurth, L. Davies, and C. Harber (eds) Learning Democracy and Citizenship: International Experiences. Symposium Books pp 19-36.
  • Fielding, M. (2001) “Beyond the Rhetoric of Student Voice: New Departures or New Constraints in the Transformation of 21st Century Schooling?” Forum 43 (2), 100-109.
  • Fielding, M. (2001) OFSTED, Inspection & the Betrayal of Democracy, Journal of Philosophy of Education 35 (4), 695-709.
  • Fielding, M. (2001) Students as Radical Agents of Change, Journal of Educational Change 2 (3), 123-141.
  • Fielding, M. (ed) (2000) Taking Education Really Seriously: Four Years Hard Labour. Routledge Falmer.
  • Fielding, M., Fuller, A. and Loose, T. (2000) “Taking Pupil Perspectives Seriously: The Central Place of Pupil Voice in Primary School Improvement” In G. Southworth and P. Lincoln (eds) Understanding Improving Primary Schools. Falmer Press pp 107-112.
  • Fielding, M. (1999) Target Setting, Policy Pathology & Student Perspectives: Learning to Labour in New Times, Cambridge Journal of Education Vol 29 No 2 pp 277-287.
  • Fielding, M. (1999) Radical Collegiality: Affirming Teaching as an Inclusive Professional Practice, Australian Educational Researcher Vol 26 No 2 pp 1-34.
  • Fielding, M. (1991) The Prospects for Democratic Schools in the 1990s, Education Review Vol 4 No 1 pp 46-50.
  • Fielding, M. (1991) Holding on to Education for Liberation in the 1990s In: Portuguese Ministry of Education School/Environment Dialogue pp 157-165.
  • Fielding, M. and Dale, R. (1989) Overview of Section Two, In: C. Harber & R. Meighan (eds) Democratic Practice and Educational Management Education Now. pp 93-97.
  • Fielding, M. (1989) “The Fraternal Foundations of Democracy: Towards an Emancipatory Practice in School-Based INSET” in: C. Harber & R. Meighan (eds) Democratic Practice and Educational Management Education Now pp 133-145.
  • Fielding, M. (1988) “Democracy and Fraternity” In: H. Lauder and P. Brown (eds) Education: In Search of a Future. Falmer Press pp 50-74.
  • Fielding, M. (1987) ‘Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite – ou la mort’: Towards a New Paradigm for the Comprehensive School, In: C. Chitty (ed) Redefining the Comprehensive Experience London University Institute of Education. Heinemann pp. 50-64.
  • Fielding, M. (1973) School Councils and the Democratic Ideal, New Era Vol 54 No 1 pp 5-8.
  • Fielding, M. (1973) Democracy in Secondary Schools: School Councils and ‘Shared Responsibility’, Journal of Moral Education Vol 2 No 3 pp 221-232.


See the SoundOut Bibliography for more features on your favorite authors!


Review: How to Improve Your School by Giving Pupils a Voice

Originally published in Meaningful Student Involvement Research Guide by Adam Fletcher (2004) Olympia, WA: SoundOut.

Review of “How to Improve Your School: Giving Pupils a Voice” by J. Rudduck & J. Flutter. Published in 2004 by Continuum in New York and London.

How to Improve Your School successfully argues that a range of circumstances necessitates that students must been seen and engaged differently than ever before, and that schools can and should change to encourage that transformation.

The authors draw on a variety of evidence in a comprehensive examination of the roles of students today, offering detailed accounts of students’ ability to actively contribute to school change.

Despite being centered on school reform in the UK, How to Improve Your School is the seminal publication regarding student inclusive school change.

The authors successfully navigate a wide variety of information, from the history of young people involved in formalized learning to the current activities, assumptions, and advocates calling for Meaningful Student Involvement.

Their succinct accounts offer a strong foundation from which a wide range of research and advocacy can be conducted. This is the most comprehensive scan of what student inclusive school change looks like in schools today.

Rudduck and Flutter spend several chapters explaining research that consulted students in school change. The program, called The Learning School, explored three successive groups of young people who evaluated secondary schools around the world.

After being trained in basic research methods, student researchers spent six weeks in teams looking at each of the eight schools. Important barriers are also identified.

This project demonstrated that not only are students taking different roles in schools, but that it is also important to think and reflect on aspects of learning that are important to them (p28).

Another project highlighted the way meaningful student involvement actually transformed U.K. schools by tracking the changes in policy and practice that reflected students’ comments.

According to the authors, teachers gain a variety of benefits from student inclusive school change that include:

  • A more open perception of young people’s capabilities;
  • A readiness to change thinking and practice in light of these perceptions;
  • A practical agenda for improvement and a renewed sense of excitement in teaching (p152).

The book continues by mapping the multiple dimensions through which students can influence change, provide multiple arguments for young people’s involvement, and identify multiple issues and agendas that student involvement advocates seek to fulfill.

The closing chapters of How to Improve Your School address the educational foundation of student involvement, and offer a conclusion that resolves to put students in central, meaningful, and sustainable roles throughout schools.

By providing a broad cross-examination of theory, research and action, How to Improve Your School offers the most effective validation of student inclusive school change to date.

This is not just an important book for student advocates; it is an essential read for all school improvement leaders.

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