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Student Voice in Schools: What the Research Says

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Sometimes school administrators invite students to work alongside officials when developing policy. For the most part, however, major policies are developed and decisions are made for students rather than with them. This is because the field of educational leadership has been defined by a century of antiquated leadership roles and leadership development practices. All is not lost however as contempory trends are altering the perceived roles of education leaders, positioning them as justice advocates and democratice change makers.

In this post I will highlight the value of including students in the development of their own educational experiences.

What Is Student Voice?

In school, student voice can be seen in many ways. From students sharing perspectives to working with teachers in seeking solutions to complex problems. Students and their voice can in fact be significant sources of information, which can help to improve classroom instruction and to facilitate school change initiatives.

Why does Student Voice Matter?

Obstacles to Student Voice

Giving students the opportunity to participate in discussions of school policy and practice can potentially open the school up for a disruption of the status quo. In an educational environment such disruptions can be met with resistance from various stakeholders.

Overcoming the Obstacles

Oftentimes the obstacles that get in the way of letting student voice thrive seem insurmountable. This said, current research suggests that there are a few ways in which educational leaders can develop a culture that amplifies, prioritizes, and celebrates student voice within schools.

  1. School leaders who genuinely support centering the voices of students incorporate it as a natural part of school culture. At a fundamental level, if school leaders strive to center the voices of students in their schools, then they must internalize this core belief and create a school culture that nurtures this ethos.
  1. The intentional positioning of students as change agents and leaders. For example, staff and administrators should support students through their presence at events, and adults at the school must offer critical feedback to strengthen students’ initiatives.
  1. School leaders must actively and intentionally create opportunities for student voice. For student voice initiatives to thrive within school settings, there needs to be a concerted effort made on the part of school administrators to value and support this work.

Reference

Lac, V. T., & Cumings Mansfield, K. (2018). What Do Students Have to Do With Educational Leadership? Making a Case for Centering Student Voice. Journal of Research on Leadership Education13(1), 38–58.

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