How to invite and value the voice of the students

“The way we’ve always done it” is no longer an excuse: How to invite and value the voice of the students

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Student Voice

Children and young students are often ‘seen but not heard’  in a school environment. This has been the norm, but times are changing and the schools have to keep up. They have to value the voice of the students. On the other hand, developing a voice and seeing their suggestions implemented enhances the students’ capability to learn, explore and understand the surroundings in a more appropriate way.

Student Voice, what is it Exactly?

Student voice is an amalgamation of the values, perspectives, opinions, beliefs, and cultural background of each student and group of students. It is also part of educators’ teaching approaches and techniques that are based on student choices, interests, passions, and ambitions. It’s all about listening to students’ voices and responding appropriately.

Does Student Voice Matter?

When one’s voice is not heard, it is frustrating and drains confidence. It makes one feel that others do not value them. In the same way, a student would when his/her voice is not heard, especially students who are struggling to find their place, those who don’t fit in.

In the present scenario, personalized learning is an essential aspect of students’ voices. For this to happen, educators need to provide the best instructions to students. This is possible only when educators know what their students require or feel.

Student voice can have many advantages for schools and the larger community. For example:

  • To foster a sense of citizenship in young students, encourage them in making school decisions. This in turn helps them develop important skills such as cooperation and communication skills, self-efficacy, responsibility, civic awareness, and respect.
  • Giving young students an opportunity to contribute to the school community gives them a sense of belonging, builds self-esteem, and can lead to more respectful relationships with the school. This has a positive result in their school discipline and helps reduce problems such as truancy, bullying, drug addiction, and radicalization.
  • Involving students in active learning responsibilities in the classroom has a good impact not only on the classroom atmosphere but also on the academic performance of students and their peers.

Also Read: 5 strategies to reach and impact vulnerable students after Covid-19

 

Ways to invite and respect student’s voices:

1. Lift up under-engaged voices:

Listen to students whose voices are rarely heard, including students with diverse backgrounds, low grades, or socioeconomic status, or who seem to be quieter than their peers. Listening to them would encourage them to participate more actively in the classroom and in turn improve their academic performance.

2. Give children more discussion time to explore and develop their ideas:

It’s hard to think about something when you are trying to figure out what it is. Taking that time to work and discuss ideas with others will not only increase your understanding of the topic but also give you time to listen to other people’s ideas. Hence giving an opportunity to discuss, explore the topic and provide or develop ideas that might be more effective in understanding or implementing.

3. Allow for creative expression:

The most powerful voice expression is not only in thinking but in sharing those thoughts. Each student is born with a creative idea. Give students the opportunity to express their voice in the strongest possible way – art, poetry, video, paper, or activity – where they can demonstrate their learning and understanding. The skill that they showcase will encourage their freedom to express themselves.

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4. Listen to other student voices:

Students these days are from a family background with a single child. The sense of sharing, affection within the same age group, and empathy are comparatively less. Hence, encouraging students to listen to others’ voices can help students develop empathy and open up to other perspectives.

5. Make lessons relevant:

Children have different backgrounds, experiences, and interests. Allowing students to have a voice in places where they know and understand what their voice is. Lessons should be relevant to the surroundings that can help them make lifelong connections and build confidence with familiarity.

6. Reward those who take risks and recognize those who speak up:

When students speak up, we tend to stop them from speaking. The classroom should be a place where students can speak up with confidence and share their opinion, be they right or wrong. This is a time when the educator can rectify them. Creating a classroom culture that rewards student voices for taking risks and being bold can create a more open and engaging learning environment.

7. Encourage debate:

Debate is a place where everyone speaks up with their opinion and ideas. They even tend to express their emotions. Create curious learners who can create, listen and respect through research. Articulated arguments foster a stronger voice.

8. Engage in various forms of leadership:

Leadership is not always shown through outspoken students. When students are given responsibility, they give their best even with slight hesitation. Children can demonstrate leadership through teaching and mentoring, visual storytelling, or school/community volunteering. Encouraging students to various forms of leadership will develop the students to be more confident in their behaviour.

Educators and their students are at the heart of personalized learning. Through that deeper engagement, a student can perform better and contribute their ideas where they are comfortable.

Educators’ approaches to addressing the personal needs and abilities of the students strengthen their confidence and help to discover unique skills that can be earned best. Educators play a vital role in the ʻstudent voiceʼ. This can happen only with the help of the school leaders who need to consider students’ voices.

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