What not to Do when Empowering the ‘Student Voice’
Do not ignore the power of the Student Voice
Do not forget that every single student in every classroom has a voice that should be engaged in schools. Student voice can certainly change the climate of a school effectively and can improve student achievement.
Do not discourage students from leading conferences or presentations. Such conferences empower students by allowing them to take responsibility for their own education.
Students can develop attributes and skills crucial to becoming involved and productive citizens, including tolerance, getting along with others respectfully, effectively questioning authority, and public speaking. Simply, student voice inspires and empowers young people to take charge of their world.
Do not exclude students from being active members in developing their school’s code of behaviour.
Student voice enables students to be a part of the solution, rather than a part of the problem. They gain a sense of belonging with their increased attachment and positive relationships with peers, teachers, school and the broader community. Today, we sometimes talk negatively about students and the use of social media eg time-wasting, cyberbullying, the decline of face-to-face interaction. So, why not encourage them to put it to good use? Why not encourage them to use Twitter, Facebook or YouTube as a medium to enhance their lifelong learning, communications, social connection and even technical skills.
Do not exclude the Student Voice in their Learning
Why Listen to student voices? Why listen to Learners’ voices? Do you teach your students to listen? Ask students what they enjoyed about a class. Don’t forget that students will know, when their opinions are disregarded.
Remember, that one of the most powerful tools available to influence academic achievement and classroom dynamics is making students feel that they have a stake in their learning. Students MUST have an opportunity to voice their opinions on the changing curriculum and instruction and how it impacts on their learning.
In my experience as a teacher, I have found that the more choice, control, challenge and opportunities for collaboration that I gave, the more their motivation and engagement rises.
Encourage your students to be leaders in the classroom, adopt ownership and responsibility with respect to engagement and their learning.
Remember that there is a significant link between learner voice, relationships, attachment and impact on positive sense of wellbeing.
What not to do if you don’t know
Don’t pretend that you know everything. Be honest and don’t pretend! You need to explain to students that you didn’t have to opportunity to express your opinions when in school. You need to show and put into practice that you really believe now that the inclusion of ‘student voice’ contributes positively to a school community.
Acknowledge that you now realise that the student voice’ is the individual and collective perspective and actions of students within the context of learning and education. Acknowledge that not only can it change the education climate of a school effectively, it can also strengthen student achievement and foster workforce readiness.
Learning from my Failures
My first Failure
In my experience as a young teacher, I didn’t understand or acknowledge the power of the student voice. I remember that I didn’t provide opportunities for collaboration. I didn’t realise that greater listening would increase their motivation and engagement.
I now understand that one of the most powerful ways to impact on achievement, is to actively engage students in the life of the classroom. When students realise that we value what they have to say, they are more likely to share their thoughts and insights. I now understand that a positive, caring, respectful climate in the classroom, is a prior condition to learning and a strong teacher – student relationship encourages students’ confidence to share their voices and opinions.
My Second Failure
I now realise that we must understand that students are central in improving teaching and learning, they must be included. Their opinions and ideas must be heard. They must be consulted. Again, in my early days, I didn’t realise that students learned differently. I didn’t realise that they had different learning styles. Students became frustrated, opted out. I now realise that I needed to understand that how best to teach my students demands getting to know their strengths and weaknesses. You have to get to know your students and know how they work. I didn’t realise that understanding and realising their different learning styles would enhance their participation in learning.
I now understand that I should not have stopped students sharing who they are, what they believe in, and why they believe what they do, with their peers, parents, teachers and their entire school.
I now understand that If one of your students has a kinaesthetic learning style, their life in a traditional school will tend to be boring and unsuccessful. If you prefer learning through physical touch and activities, spending all day reading, writing, or listening to lectures, is not going to make you feel excited by or interested in your education, so get to know their preferred learning style.
In instances where I have listened and given students positions of leadership in my classes, I have always been amazed by the brilliance and innovation that follows. Personally, I feel that whenever students are given challenges, nearly all of them rise to the occasion.
Listening to students identifying school problems and possible solutions reminds us that students possess unique knowledge and perspectives about their schools that adults don’t necessarily have. Simply put, student voice inspires and empowers students to take charge of their education.
The goal of inspiring student leaders is to create a culture of ownership, collaboration and community in the classroom. It’s easy to see that given the right opportunities, students will blossom to be leaders in fields that interest them, making a positive impact on society.
Empower students to have a voice and it will inspire and equip students to take charge of their education and their lives.