Nov 10, 2015
Comments Off on Is Student Voice For Real?

Is Student Voice For Real?

Noun 4186

Educational change agents are constantly humming the merits of student voice and choice. Although a pithy rhyme, I wonder the implications of incorporating it in educational policy decision making.

A proviso: I believe education needs to be personalized. I’m all for students choosing their own books, methods of learning and connecting the curriculum to their own sense of self, justice, and helping in craft the direction of their learning on the micro scale. My classroom is excessively student directed. I’m all for student choice. I’m all for student voice when it comes to the individual.

Student voice on a larger scale is another issue. That’s not to say there shouldn’t be development of voice, that’s imperative, however, in implementing change in the system as a whole, I think we need to temper our excitement of incorporating student voice.

Student voice has been constructed by the school voice. The social, economic, and cultural factors that influence how students talk about school are often directly connected to how their teachers and parents talk about school and learning.

In battling the marks economy, I have found most students have no problem with the system, as is. Despite the growing research that opines that the marks economy inhibits students’ intrinsic motivation, there is no student groundswell to eliminate it, often because we have given them the language of the status quo.

In the same breath, over the six years I’ve been openly talking with my students about a radical change in education, many students have come around to seeing it my way. My influence on their perspective is obvious. Their voice begins to puppet my own. I may be inherently persuasive, but their voice in arguing for this change seems rather constructed by me.

The pop culture influence a student’s awareness of their schooling. Like in David Foster Wallace’s famous valedictorian speech, the idea that students are unaware of their surroundings is problematic when looking for their influence on the environment.

High school is a constant fixture on tv shows and movies. The media reinforces a student’s understanding of high school. We are not aware of options until it is reflected in pop culture.

All this is to say that I think we need to couch student voice with an awareness that it is not fully developed and often is more a reflection of their teacher than their larger understanding of the world.

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