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Student voice

Student voice is "any expression of any learner regarding anything related to education" and describes "the distinct perspectives and actions of young people throughout schools focused on education. Expert Dennis Harper writes, "Student voice is giving students the ability to influence learning to include policies, programs, contexts and principles."

Student voice is the individual and collective perspective and actions of students within the context of learning and education. It is identified in schools as both a metaphorical practice and as a pragmatic concern.

Student voice work is premised on the following convictions:

Several typologies differentiate the practices that identify as student voice. One identifies multiple roles for students throughout the education system, including education planning, research, teaching, evaluating, decision-making and advocacy.

The presence and engagement of student voice has been seen as essential to the educational process since at least the time of John Dewey, if not long before. In 1916 Dewey wrote extensively about the necessity of engaging student experience and perspectives in the curriculum of schools, summarizing his support by saying,:

The essence of the demand for freedom is the need of conditions which will enable an individual to make his own special contribution to a group interest, and to partake of its activities in such ways that social guidance shall be a matter of his own mental attitude, and not a mere authoritative dictation of his acts.

Today student voice is seeing a resurgence of importance as a growing body of literature increasingly identifies student voice as necessary throughout the educational process. Areas where advocates encourage actively acknowledging student voice include curriculum design and instructional methods, Educational leadership and general school reform activities, including research and evaluation.

Specific types of activities that can specifically engage student voice include learning by teaching, education decision-making, school planning, participatory action research, learning and teaching evaluations, educational advocacy, and student advisories for principals and superintendents.

  • Young people have unique perspectives on learning, teaching, and schooling;
  • Their insights warrant not only the attention but also the responses of adults; and
  • They should be afforded opportunities to actively shape their education.


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