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.
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.
Defining Student Voice
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.
Student Voice in the Classroom
Implement student voice practices in your classroom using one of our many student voice activities.
Student Voice in the School
Review what student voice practices currently exist across your school and identify areas for improvement.
Student Voice to Student Outcomes Survey
Measure student voice within your classroom and school using our valid and reliable survey instruments.
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 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.