My interest in student voice has been a serendipitous journey that started in my early years in the classroom, impacted my work as a school principal and has evolved into a bit of professional passion. So I have taken with great interest both the student-centered focus of Inspiring Education and Alberta’s Speak Out initiative. In particular, I have been reading the Speak Out blog where Alberta students post about the issues and questions that are currently on their minds. Over this school year alone there has been lively conversation around topics such as the impact of school sports, government funding for school buses, reflections on shorter school weeks and creating learning-styles based classrooms, among others. I found it insightful to see the wide variety of views presented and even the vast selection of issues presented by the student bloggers as a whole.
A few years ago, as I researched further into this concept of student voice, I found Robert Hart’s Ladder of Child Participation (see page 8 of this document). Over the years, I have found various organizations (including school boards) modify the ladder to their specific contexts for student voice, but the essence is the same. If you are new to Robert’s ladder, you may find the image below from Compasito or this explanation from Cornell Garden Based Learning helpful.
Since finding Hart’s Ladder, I use it for reflection and to assess my own actions, both in classroom and school settings, to determine where the choices I have or will make regarding student voice fall on this scale. The goal of course is to be in the range of active participation (4-8) versus the non-participatory range (1-3).
I’ve also read interesting steps various Canadian boards have taken to bring students to the table and engage in decision making. Here are some examples:
- The Alberta Speak Out site provides students and teachers with a DVD toolkit, supplies and checklist to host their own Speak Out Forum for students in their communities. In addition, students may apply to be a part of the Minister’s Student Advisory Council (Applications now being taken until May 30, 2014, 4:30 p.m.).
- The New Frontiers School board in Quebec involved students from all over the province in their Board Improvement Planning Process. For more information, see LEARNing Landscapes, page 35.
- School boards across Ontario have Student Trustees as part of the acting Board of Directors. This is just one example from York Region District School Board.
- Finally, I recently discovered a student-led, Canada-wide effort to mobilize student voice and further embed the student trustee role.
Revisiting Inspiring Education and given its focus on becoming more student focused, what does student voice look in our classrooms and schools? How can we further elevate student voice in these settings? What possibilities exist to integrate student voice province-wide with the Inspiring Education vision?