Bringing Student Voice to Scale

Bringing Student Voice to Scale

The budding adults are the future of nation; their upliftment is nation’s development. 

Yes! You guessed it right; we are talking about students and the need to scale up their voice in how education is being delivered.

Student voice means, values, opinions, beliefs, perspectives, and cultural backgrounds of individual students and groups of students in a school, and to instructional approaches and techniques that are based on student choices, interests, passions, and ambitions.

A rise in this perspective has been witnessed in recent decades. It’s a positive attitude developed by institutions towards their students. In fact, students know some specific things about their institutions, what the teacher or administrator might not know. Several researches/campaign have been performed on this.

For instance, Andrew Brennen, national field director for Student Voice, aftermath an online campaign organised on twitter with title ‘#stuvoice’ held discussions with students in diverse contexts from Philadelphia to Iowa to Kentucky. During these discussions he observed, immediate answers to the question “tell me about your school that teachers and administrators don’t know?” was only an awkward silence accompanied by some nervous laughter. And the first answers that bubble up tend to stay on the surface, such as complaints about school lunches or too much homework. Once students get past the easy answers, though, profound and sometimes heartbreaking stories start to emerge. Students also say they welcome opportunities to make learning more personal. For example, when it comes to project-based learning, According to Brennen, Outcomes will be better if students buy in at the project design phase vs. just at implementation.

For schools that want to facilitate their own student voice conversations, Brennen recommends having students take the lead.

In a broader term Students’ voice - describes a range of activities that can occur in and out of school. It can be understood as expression, performance, and creativity and as co-constructing the teaching/learning dynamics. Most current academic setup limits and influences students in a very rigid way due to the fact they are outdated and not personalized.

Their voices are fruitful in bringing an educational climate change in schools as well as strengthen their achievements fostering workforce readiness by active participation in discussion, debates, functions organized by the schools and also by being a part student body council. Their participation allows them to share who they are, what they believe in, and why they believe what they do, with their peers, parents, teachers and their entire school. It is also believed that student participating more in these voicing exercises are more likely to get opportunities in career because the fear of speaking fearlessly goes away.

Education that gets the students formed .It helps in character-building, in nurturing them and giving them a voice in the society. If educational institutes treat them with due respect and responsibility, they will also live up to be responsible and respectful towards the society and will also have the acceptance to work in order to contribute in making the society, a better place.

Now! The most important question of listening to them comes in play. How? How could we hear those unheard voices? Answer to all these questions is – Communication.

Communicating with the students directly or indirectly can help us in scaling up their voices. Let’s look up to the ways of interaction institution should opt for:

Develop debate culture:  When there is information, there is enlightenment. When there is debate, there is a solution. If debates are held or debating platforms like mock parliaments, model United Nations or moot courts are held in academic institutions then student would at first get rid of the fear of being judged for the opinions they hold  and come up with different perspectives, views, opinions and a host of ideas leading to discussions which would eventually end up at a proposed solution. Institutions need to encourage debates, create curious learners who can formulate through research, listen to and engage in respectful discourse. Such articulated arguments foster a stronger voice.

Provide leadership opportunities: It isn’t about bringing up outspoken students on floor; it’s about encouraging students for speaking about all the rights and wrongs and participates in events/promoting volunteerism. Doing this, they would attain leadership qualities. It should be more focused on providing platform that facilitates elements of leadership, hands-on, interaction etc. where teachers are actively involved to strengthen the student-teacher and student-student connection.

Partnerships: Institutions should engage students as partners in school change efforts. That might mean students playing a role in professional development, serving on focus groups, occupying school board seats, or participating in hiring decisions. This would help them develop decision-making skills.

Listen to the unheard: There are some students whose voices are seldom heard, who do not speak because of an inferior feeling. A personal interaction or a one-on-one feedback session with them would create a mutual understanding, ease them and would also help in building a sense of self-confidence.
 In a classroom full of students, we may come across students with different traits; some outspoken, some quiet and some with low self-esteem, may be because of a feeling of inferiority based on discriminatory norms .If any mentor hears or interacts with them on a personal term then this would help them come out of the invisible cage that has been built.

Allow for creative expression: Thoughts are not only the mode of expressions. Art, poetry, video, a paper and more activities like these acts as the most powerful expression of voice. Give students an opportunity to articulate their voice in the most creative way of their own choices; it can effortlessly demonstrate evidences in their learning and understanding.

Give rewards and recognition to the speaker: Institutions should create a culture where students are rewarded and recognized for taking risks and showing courage to speak up. This will develop a sense of competition among them and can foster a more open and participatory learning environment.

Write the voices: Encouraging students to take on the voice of others, it can help students develop empathy and be open to other perspectives. It includes listening to the grievances and issues of others or interviewing people and putting it up on their behalf.

Alfie Kohn said, “Children, after all, are not just adults-in-the-making. They are people whose current needs and rights and experiences must be taken seriously.” Their voices can have a social yet protective motive, the first being more supportive of the institution and the second more challenging in nature in meeting up to their expectations from the institution.. They can help bring a balance to the administrative process and also help an institution to prioritize the aspects that are not just important for staff but for students as well.

They are the drivers of productive change. So, institutions must provide a platform to the students to exchange their words, hear the unheard issues and implement required instructions to the institution.

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About the Author
Author: Saniya Khan
Saniya Khan I am Saniya Khan, Copy-Editor at EdTechReview - India’s leading edtech media. As a part of the group, my aim is to spread awareness on the growing edtech market by guiding all educational stakeholders on latest and quality news, information and resources. A voraciously curious writer with a dedication to excellence creates interesting yet informational pieces, playing with words since 2016.

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