Student Voice

How to best encourage and support student voice at your school
Abby Dale-Bates
9/11/2022
2022/12/01

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Student voice is a concept that, when utilised to its full potential, can be a powerful tool in engaging students in their own learning and school community. Student voice is comprised of the thoughts, feelings, aspirations, and actions of each individual student.

At its core, it is about the opportunity to open up dialogue, discuss issues or ideas brought forward, and most importantly include students in their school experiences (Moore, 2022). 

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Student voice is about providing each student with the platform and tools to be listened to and understood, rather than perpetuating an environment where only the loudest of opinions are heard across a sea of voices. By enabling student voice, schools allow students to feel there is space for genuine reciprocal communication, where they can actively participate and are involved in the decision-making around their school life and mental wellbeing (Conner, Posner, & Nsowaa, 2022).

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What student voice looks like may vary from school to school depending on:

  • The developmental and emotional maturity of the students
  • What they need within their educational environment.

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This allows schools to honestly look at their student population and identify what consultation would consist of for the best outcomes for students. On a primary level, this may be students’ ability to communicate with faculty their concerns or opinions on their experiences, which may include using drawings or emojis (Waters, Dussert, Loton, 2021). When looking at student voice from an older, more in-depth perspective, students may be viewed as collaborators in addressing and amending processes and mental health problems in their school. 

What is needed to encourage Student Voice?

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When encouraging student voice, there are a number of factors which are required to ensure communication is honest, effective and beneficial. Students need to:

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  • Feel a strong sense of trust between themselves and the staff, as well as the presence of psychological safety within school for them to speak up.
  • Feel that their contributions are not just “heard”, but acted upon to make meaningful change.
  • Feel that staff have a genuine interest in their opinions and that their voice is valid - this can be encouraged by teachers asking for honest student feedback, and engaging in conversations about student experience outside of school.
  • Finally, students need to see a change on an individual level or through trends school-wide. (Gillett-Swan, 2022).    

What are the benefits of promoting Student Voice?

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When students report higher levels of student voice, there are a number of benefits which can be observed both in external processes and skills level, and on an internal emotional level. 

External improvements:

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  • Student voice provides students with the platform to present and discuss their ideas and opinions.  
  • Students are put in the “driver’s seat” of their own education, classroom environment, and mental wellbeing, enabling them to feel empowered to make positive change.
  • Students gain increased exposure and confidence in problem-solving and collaboration with adults, to make relevant and effective decisions.
Internal improvements:

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  • When students feel engaged or motivated in their classroom situation, there is an increase in self-reports of improved autonomy and agency. 
  • Students who directly help to make changes for themselves and their peers, report an increased sense of belonging within the school community, which positively impacts feelings of Psychological Safety
  • When students feel heard and their ideas are contributive, there can be increases in feelings of competence and self-esteem, both of which positively influence the likelihood of students putting their hands up in the future.   
  • The student-teacher relationship is crucial for further communication and opportunities for support. When the student voice is respected and considered, feelings of trust from students towards teachers improves
  • When students can communicate their academic needs, teachers gain a more in-depth understanding, which allows student needs to be met, increasing engagement and academic achievement. 

(Conner, Posner, & Nsowaa, 2022)

With all this information in mind, how do we involve students in the decision-making and ensure their student voice is accounted for?

How can Komodo support Student Voice?

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Komodo is a student-data driven platform that measures student wellbeing through their experiences and perspectives. It both provides students with insight into their own wellbeing, and opens the lines of communication between students and staff for making positive long-term changes.

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Komodo’s aim is to support schools and students to understand strengths in their wellbeing and identify areas which require support and alteration.

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The Komodo platform provides students with the space to connect with teachers outside of the wellbeing questionnaires, request additional support, and provide additional context on their wellbeing through the teacher-student comments feed.

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The platform bridges the gap between students and teachers, and provides a safe space for student voices to be heard, validated, and their wellbeing needs to be met and flourish.

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Ultimately, Komodo encourages student engagement and trust to speak up, which allows them to reflect on their needs within school, as well as connecting them with trusted adults who can advocate for their student voice. 

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References

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  • Amplifying Student Voice. Educational Leadership, the positive classroom, ASCD, 66(1), 2009.
    https://www.ascd.org/el/articles/amplifying-student-voice
  • Conner, J., Posner, M., & Nsowaa, B. (2022). The relationship between student voice and student engagement in Urban High Schools. The Urban Review, 54, 755-774. 
  • Gillett-Swan, J. (2022). Student-Driven School Change; A practice guide for educators and other professionals [PDF].  Centre for Inclusive Education. 
  • Ministry of Education, The New Zealand Curriculum Online, June 2015. 
    https://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/Inclusive-practices/Implementing-an-inclusive-curriculum/Building-a-rich-knowledge-of-the-learner/Encouraging-student-voice
  • Moore, I. (2022). The effect of student voice on the perception of student agency. International Journal of Educational Research, 112, 101923. 
  • Waters, L., Dussert, D., Loton, D. (2021). How do young children understand and action their own well-being? Positive psychology, student voice, and well-being literacy in early childhood. International Journal of Applied Positive Psychology. 
    Doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/s41042-021-00056-w
  • What is Student Voice? Dialogue, Discussion, Consultation, and Participation. Bullying Free NZ,
    https://bullyingfree.nz/schools/student-voice/student-voice-a-guide-for-schools/what-is-student-voice/#:~:text=Student%20voice%20begins%20and%20ends,their%20school%20and%20their%20classrooms