Student Voice and Choice

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Student voice and choice are an entryway into Meaningful Student Involvement. However, this shouldn’t be seen as the beginning and end of the conversation. The larger topic at hand is the role of students in schools and whether the education system should continue to promote students being passive recipients of adult-driven learning.

The notion of student voice and choice limits the perspectives, actions, wisdom, ideas and knowledge of students according to what, how, when, where and why adults want to hear them. There are other approaches that are more authentic, appropriate and engaging.

 

Challenges

Unfortunately, in many ways the idea of student voice and choice is being used as a surrogate for actually understanding Meaningful Student Involvement. This happens when adults…

  • Insinuate that student voice and choice is the best thing, everywhere, all of the time;
  • Provide students with limited opportunities to share their voices or limited opportunities to make choices;
  • Take away the context for why voice and choice actually matter by misapplying approaches

Any classroom or school practice that is driven by the assumption that student voice and choice is the key to learning is still being led by that belief.

By determining that students should determine what, how, when, where, why and with whom they are learning, we are merely reinforcing the notion of who has control and authority in schools. Suddenly, students are being told it’s them, while in reality, control still rests in the hands of adults who have long been answered with “leave it to the professionals,” meaning administrators and policy-makers.

 

Alternatives

Creating opportunities for meaningful involvement for students, teachers, and parents is growing in many communities, while the federal government is increasingly asking how and where nontraditional voices can be engaged in decision-making. Businesses, community organizations, mayors, and others want roles, too.  This is a topic that many people should rally around.

But student voice and choice is merely an entryway into that conversation, and not the whole thing in and of itself.

 

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