Student Voice in the School
Beyond one-on-one relationships or classrooms, elevating student voice across the school is critical for young people to thrive.
Student Voice Practices
Within schools, student voice practices (SVPs) can range from a focus on technical, apolitical concerns to challenging existing power structures. Schools can create advisory boards through which students provide insights into practice or policy issues. Students can demand changes in hiring policies and school climate. There are many different ways in which students can participate in school decision making.
Research demonstrates that SVPs are particularly beneficial in school improvement for addressing systemic education inequities that disproportionately impact students from historically resilient, but marginalized groups. When students are invited to collaborate with adults to improve their learning environments, the results are more equitable practices at the school and classroom levels. Further, by engaging in SVPs, students build critical competencies (e.g., social awareness, responsible decision making, agency, self and social advocacy), which, in turn, positively shift their own life trajectories.
A Blueprint for Schoolwide Student Voice
Based on our research findings from student and teacher surveys, interviews, focus groups, and observations, we developed a blueprint for understanding SVPs in school settings. To ensure that all students within a school have multiple opportunities to share their voice, schools should have three different structures of SVPs present in their school setting:
Speak: SVPs where students are invited by educators to provide input or feedback on school improvement efforts.
Lead: SVPs where students are given the authority by educators to make decisions on school improvement efforts.
Collaborate: SVPs where students and educators partner to make decisions on school improvement efforts.
Each structure of SVPs represents a different way in which students can participate in decision making within schools. To ensure SVPs are enabling students to participate in decision making, we highlight four criteria for operationalizing the SVP structures within schools:
Availability: the extent to which the type of SVP is present in school improvement efforts,
Access: the extent to which students in the school can participate in the SVP,
Intent: the extent to which the reason, or motivation, behind the type of SVP is rooted in making long-term and equity-focus school improvements, and
Responsiveness: the extent to which students and adults (for example, teachers, principals, vice principals) participating in an SVP make (or do not make) school improvements and inform the broader school community that a SVP contributed to school improvements.
While the criteria are separated for ease of assessing the operationalization of SVP structures, they are intricately linked to one another as they inform how the different SVP structures are being experienced by educators or students within a school setting.
To learn more about developing schoolwide SVPs, consider these additional evidence-based resources: