Turning the Tables with Student Voice

Student Voice is a pedagogical approach where you work towards giving students a voice which is listened to and valued within the classroom to allow them to own the learning process. It aims towards developing problem solving skills and critical and creative thinking skills. It encompasses flipped learning where the teacher is having the students undertake the heavy lifting and is therefore more in a role as a facilitator. Students can have a say in what we do and how we do it. They have opportunities to co-design learning tasks and programs. It is NOT a free for all where students are in control of everything and can choose not to cover the Australian Curriculum or SACE.

In the Student Voice classroom my role as a teacher is one of a facilitator of content and the Australian Curriculum. We work as a learning team.

They are involved in the process and I think they feel valued which means they are engaged and more willing to put the effort in. They see me being unsure, they see me learning and struggling and asking others and them for help.  I facilitate discussion and I define what can be negotiated in the learning and what cannot be negotiated. The role of the student is to be an active participant and co-designer of the learning activities.

How I Started in my Year 8 Classroom

  • Talk to students about what student voice is, let them know you are learning too
    • I found it really effective to stress their role and responsibility within the pedagogy- they need to work with you and own what they are doing and their behaviour (good or bad) within it.
  • Overview the achievement standards for your subject– I explained that this is what they are assessed on.
    • Before each unit I select the standards I want us to focus on and we spend some time going through them and writing the standards in simple terms. I then print this sheet out for them and they have a copy of our focus
    • Brainstorm non-negotiables and negotiables- talk to the students about what you will negotiate with them and what you can’t/won’t. This is their chance to co-design the learning. Once you have some ideas from them, create a unit plan which can be adjusted as you go, make sure you share this with the students.
  • Reflecting on what they have done and what worked is powerful because it forces them to think about what worked and what didn’t and why.

How this could look- An Example from My Year 8 Class

In a unit where students learnt about the structure of newspapers and the style of writing appropriate for news reports we started out with a class brainstorm. We brainstormed the potential things we could do to learn about news reports and newspapers.

A key aspect of this is determining the negotiable aspects and the non-negotiable aspects. Before I discuss anything with the students I have a clear understanding of what achievement standards we will focus on and what I am willing to negotiate within the unit. This can be as simple as the style of assessment task but needs to be clear and specific.

Student Voice comes in when the students share ideas about how they would like to learn something, how they would like to show their learning, what they would like to focus on in a particular unit and timelines for tasks. Basically, how they learn best as a collaborative group is key.

Students decided that they wanted to create a newspaper, they assigned an editorial team and grouped themselves into the relevant sections of the newspaper and wrote articles for their section.

The editorial team was largely responsible for the running of lessons and I facilitated and managed behaviour. I pause here because there was no troubling behaviour to deal with. The students relied on each other and their editors for support and advice; I was a last resort person to ask for help.

In the end the students created a class newspaper and taught the rest of the class about their section of the paper.

Basically, student voice will be different for different people, subject areas and cohorts. But at this point I will say that sometimes starting small is the way to go, trial different ways of doing things with students and focus on learning how to learn. Once they have seen some options start giving them the ability to decide on how they do things, give them the tools to solve the problems then give them problems to solve.

Give it a go; the worst that could happen is that you learn something from failing.


Author Bio

I am in my fifth year of teaching at Naracoorte High School and I am currently in the role of Senior School Coordinator. My passion has been Student Agency in learning and how to empower students to learn in a way in which they can clearly articulate what they are learning and how they learn best.

Twitter- @hillarytrotter

Edufolio- https://edufolios.org/htrotter/

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