The term ‘student voice’ has been used more and more in recent years, and while most teachers can recognise its significance, it can sometimes be unclear what we’re referring to when we talk about student voice in learning.
When we talk about student voice, it goes along with terms like student agency or student choice. At its most basic level, student voice is essentially giving students a voice or a say in how they learn. By doing this, you are recognising that students have unique views on learning and should have the chance to be involved in shaping their own education.
Encouraging student voice in the classroom is not necessarily letting students choose what they’re learning about. We have a curriculum that we need to follow and there are certain skills and content areas that need to be covered. Rather, it’s giving them a say in how they learn and in how they present their knowledge and understanding back to you.
Of course, that can look different depending on the age level that you work with. It can also depend a little bit on the students’ background and the amount of choice that they’ve had with their learning in the past. Plus, you’ll need to consider how confident your students are to challenge themselves and make decisions about how to learn, or whether they’re new to this and need a little more guidance.
While the concept of student voice may be new to a lot of our students, that shouldn’t stop us from promoting it in the classroom. When we allow students to share their values, preferences and viewpoints, it encourages them to feel invested in their own learning and to therefore take on a new level of responsibility. Student voice also lets students know that their opinions are valued.
So, if student voice is so important, how can we make sure we are encouraging it in our classrooms?
One way to do this is to set up learning opportunities where students will naturally begin to share their thoughts and preferences. By designing learning tasks that are open-ended and that encourage collaboration, you will be giving your students more practise in sharing their thoughts and ideas.
Another way to encourage student voice in the classroom is to be intentional with how we set up our class community. As teachers, we have a huge influence on the culture of our classrooms. When we try to encourage all students to share their ideas and celebrate the unique skills and perspectives that our students have, this will encourage children to share their thoughts more openly and to listen to others.
By taking these simple steps we can begin to make more room for student voice in our learning spaces.
Do you want to read about how I use student choice boards to encourage student voice and to differentiate for my students while you’re here? Then have a read through my post on How to Use Student Choice Boards to Differentiate for Your Learners.
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P.S. I love to hear how my tips and resources are helping you in your teaching, so leave a comment to let me know!