Diversity Equity Inclusion Students in Line

The Student Voice Toolkit

The following research, tools, and resources support educators in developing and refining student voice practices in K-12 classrooms and schools so that they can more effectively involve students in classroom and school decision-making.

How to Use This Toolkit

The Student Voice Toolkit provides information about student voice — what it is, what it looks like in practice, how to support it, and how to measure it. The Toolkit is designed to support school administrators and educators in learning about the enabling conditions needed for student voice work to take root and flourish, and it provides new insights and strategies for deepening and scaling student voice work within classrooms and schoolwide. 

We encourage you to read through these resources, utilize the activities, and take the assessments to better understand and reflect on the state of student voice practices in your school and identify opportunities for deepening your commitment to student voice.

Defining Student Voice

While educators (e.g., teachers and school administrators) are increasingly incorporating student voice into classroom and school improvement efforts, most students feel they have few opportunities to participate in and influence classroom and school decision-making.

This is concerning, as student voice is a promising practice for fostering classroom and school environments responsive to students’ needs. Emerging research shows that schools and classrooms that use student voice practices are better able to facilitate students’ academic and developmental success as well as access to educational opportunity.

Student voice refers to the opportunities to participate in and influence the educational decisions that shape students’ lives and the lives of their peers. Student voice can take many forms and can occur schoolwide or within the classroom. Students can organize and demand changes in hiring policies, curriculum, or school climate. Principals can convene student advisory committees, and teachers can ask students to provide feedback on lessons. All of these distinct practices have this in common: they all help students participate in and influence educational decision-making.

The Student Voice to Student Outcomes Study

The Student Voice to Student Outcomes study–funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation–was launched in 2021 in collaboration with the following partners: Search Institute, Dr. Dana Mitra and Ghadir Al Saghir of Pennsylvania State University, Dr. Samantha Holquist of Child Trends, Dr. Jerusha Conner of Villanova University, and school and district partners, including students, educators, and district staff.

The purpose of the study was to build evidence of the value of student voice in moving the needle on critical student outcomes and in creating more equitable learning environments. This toolkit is one of the products of this study.

Student Voice Practices

The Student Voice Toolkit is organized around the following key components to support you and your school in getting started and expanding your student voice practices:

Student Voice Readiness

Use our research-based rubric to reflect on whether you and your school have the enabling conditions in place to support student voice.

Click Here

Student Voice in the Classroom

Implement student voice practices in your classroom using one of our many student voice activities.

Click Here

Student Voice in the School

Review what student voice practices currently exist across your school and identify areas for improvement.

Click Here

Student Voice to Student Outcomes Survey

Measure student voice within your classroom and school using our valid and reliable survey instruments.

Click Here

Going Deeper

In addition to the Student Voice Toolkit, the researchers are continuously publishing new research from the Student Voice to Student Outcomes Study. We will update this page with all new articles and opinion pieces when they are published. Be sure to check back here often for our latest findings!

The authors are grateful to Nikki Wright, Enrique Rosado, Bailey Bonds, and Paula Akakpo for their assistance with the data collection and analysis that informed this toolkit. Julianna Chen provided valuable feedback on the Classroom Student Voice Practices.

This resource was developed in partnership with Pennsylvania State University, Child Trends, and Villanova University, and based on research funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The findings and conclusions contained within are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect positions or policies of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Suggested Citation: Conner, J., Holquist, S.E., Al Saghir, G., Mitra, D., & Search Institute (2023). The Student Voice Toolkit. Minneapolis, MN: Search Institute.