The Center for American Progress has released a new paper, Elevating Student Voice in Education, and it’s a must-read for anyone interested in bolstering student engagement and achievement. The paper recognizes that all of us — students, teachers, parents, administrators, policymakers — need to own our efforts and outcomes as “mine” or “ours” if we are to maximize our motivation. When we follow our interests to achieve results, and can see the relationship between our efforts and those results, we tap into the parts of our psyche that feel most authentic, self-driven and exciting. This is why the most inspiring learning environments tend to prioritize a student’s ownership over their learning. Whether it’s personalized, competency-based, culturally responsive, civic-oriented or positions youth as the evaluators of our instructional efforts, student voice activities repeatedly demonstrate that learning, achievement and equity can be enhanced when we put students in the driver’s seat.
Elevating Student Voice in Education makes clear not just the arguments for student voice, but also the methods most likely to yield success. The authors name eight separate approaches to incorporate student voice, each with concise pros and cons and specific techniques to maximize their impact in real-life contexts. To assess the mindsets and resources one would need to fully support both youth and adults in student voice projects, the authors also describe the importance of placing one’s efforts on the spectrum of student voice.
Though classroom educators and building administrators will surely gain a lot by reading this paper, the authors supply clear policy recommendations for school-, district- and state-level leaders, too. The result is a comprehensive survey of the rationale and techniques for implementing student voice at any level.
If we agree that the 21st century workplace requires our graduates to be adept at deeper learning, leadership, problem-solving, collaboration and communication, we need to build and scale the approaches that offer growth opportunities in these domains. Well-designed student voice activities supply such opportunities in droves, and this paper helps show us how to do it.