Education sector is clearly having a renaissance period at the moment!
Talking of education reform, if there is anything that’s been emphasized strongly to bring in the learning space, that’s innovation and creativity. However, to promote innovation and creativity schools call for the creation of an environment of trust which comes by making connections with the system. Once, trust is built-up, the process to promote these two attributes becomes a lot easier.
More often than not, you will find, institutions move on to finding solutions for challenges in the system without paying any heed to the voice coming from the largest stakeholders of education - the students. And perhaps because of this, students’ expectations from the education community remain unfulfilled and they start detaching themselves from the system. In a piece by the EdSurge - ‘Why student voice means more than choice?’ there is a clear indication that, it is high time that leaders in academic innovation start thinking as to how should they make space to include students feedback in important decision making process to engage them with institutional change.
Also, numerous research findings in this matter reflect that by including students in the process of talks, institutions are able to better mobilize and help initiate and implement educational change. There has been instances, where students have been found to raise important issues existing in the system which unfortunately did not come under the notice of the administrators or teachers. Also, when students find an important space in the decision making process, they start developing civic engagement, realizing that they can make a difference in their lives and the lives of the others. And this is one area where academic teaching is heavily criticized for not preparing students for life but merely to develop academic skills and this is where 21’st century education is expected to bring in reform.
As a beginning to solving this problem, inclusion of student voice must be made from the primary level say Grade 5 or 6 when students develop the ability to approach the world logically for the first time. with this regard, here is a tweet by a fifth grader teacher - Charissa Widman who, writes it was through a student voice exercise in the class , that she realized her students have so much wisdom to share on designing creative games. We bring to you the snippet of her tweet on #stuvoice
Coming to the higher education sector, here too, Students Voice in education is muffled in most of the cases. Students are rarely involved in the academic innovation process.
It is through, students voice that learners start to become more accessible and responsive in life and towards the society at length. Moreover, it is not an unknown fact that Higher education sector is in dire need of innovation and instructional change as students require it to become future ready citizens. But should it come so easy without making students an active participants in the conversation? Education stakeholders has to understand that, students are essential for effective institutional change and need to therefore come at the center of innovation design.
Dana Mitra-an assistant professor of educational theory and policy at Penn State reflected her views on the inclusion with regards to importance of Students Voice said, “Student wants autonomy, relevant pedagogy, respect and collaboration, and greater responsibility in school decisions.” She further goes on to say, “partnering with students to identify school problems and possible solutions reminds teachers and administrators that students possess unique knowledge and perspectives about their schools that adults cannot fully replicate. Students can raise tough issues that administrators and teachers might not highlight- including examining structural and cultural injustices within schools rather than blaming failing students for succeeding in schools.”
One thing that institutions need to understand is that, belonging is the sense the students gain with their increased attachment and positive relationships with peers, teachers, school and broader community. ‘Student voice’ is not the individual and collective perspective and actions of students within the context of learning and education.
Similarly, Eric Sheninger- an award winning Principal at New Milford High School and a Senior Fellow and Thought Leader on Digital Leadership with the ICLE has rightly pointed out in his piece- “Student Agency: Moving From Talk of Action”, how students active participation in taking ownership of their learning has helped in improving the learning and school based outcomes in his school.
To quote his words, “In a sense, all of our major changes really started when we began involving our students in the process. This was also the reason, in my opinion, as to why change became sustainable. More often than not change is orchestrated and directed at the adult level. There is often a great deal of talk about how many changes are being spearheaded for the betterment of students, but rarely are the students themselves asked for their input or unique ideas. Schools need to work for our students, as they are our number one stakeholder and ultimate boss.”
Elevating the students’ voice, is this nonprofit organization run by students called the - Student Voice that works towards empowering students to take up active actions on burning issues which impacts their education directly or indirectly. Similarly, Ted-Ed Clubs an initiative by the nerdyteacher.com invites students to share their student stories from around the world. With such initiatives, we do hope that academic scholars and institutional leaders will begin to act upon including students’ voice in the academic innovation process because it can bring in some significant transformation in education.
The bottom line is that, ‘students are no longer the passive recipient of knowledge but are co-creators of their own learning experience.’ Thus, as educators and their well-wishers, it is indeed important to develop student autonomy because they have a significant stake in the education system.
So, what are your views on it? Please, feel free to share your views with us through your comments and spread awareness about this pertinent issue in the education system.