Saturday, January 21, 2006
It is about time we valued student's voices!
I read awhile a go of researchers who followed successful, average and problematic students around their school day to observe and later question them as to their impressions.
The findings illustrated a lot of dead time and bored students and this was the case even for the students who were identified as ‘good learners’!
This suggests that it is time we started to listen to students voices as a strategy to reform our schools and in particular to gain the ideas about how to improve both teaching and learning. After all who knows better than the students! And if their views and opinions were valued their view could actually address some of the pressing problems schools face.
It is no coincidence that at the same time as we ignore the voice of students a growing number of students are becoming alienated.
Those who have bothered to ask students about their views report that students say their schools rarely listen to their views nor do they involve students in important decisions affecting their own learning. Many students describe their school experience as on of anonymity and powerlessness;these are the very aspects that lead to disengagement.
We need to make student’s voices an important aspects of school change.
Learning research indicates clearly that student learn more effectively if they are involved in planning their own learning – and that they learn best of all if both the teacher and student are involved in 'co-creating' learning. Relationships between teachers, learners and students are vital.
We need to personalize learning and to take into account the individuality of each learner. This is not easy in a traditional school system predicated on ‘delivering’ knowledge to the students.
Schools that begin to listen to student’s voices will find it a real catalyst for change. Students possess unique perspectives about their school that adults cannot provide and we ignore it at our peril. Student's voices can raise issues that tend to get swept away by teachers and principals who would rather do any thing to avoid controversy in this ‘market driven’ educational environment.
Far easier for the school to place the blame on the students themselves than face up to issues of a poor school culture, teaching, or organization.
When students ‘voice’ is valued students involve themselves more positively and as a result develop a greater sense of self agency. This is particularly so when they are involved in planning their own learning around what they see as relevant issues. And as a result they learn to attribute their own success to their own efforts and, as well, they gain a greater appreciation of how they learn. These are important future attributes for all learners.
Enlightened teachers are beginning to appreciate the importance of relationship and that learning is as much a social experience as an individual one. A growing sense of ownership and a positive collective identity are also bi- products of this relationship centred teaching and, as well, students learn by helping each other.
When students are actively involved in their learning they develop closer and more intimate relationships with their teachers.
Learning is enhanced when the three ‘A’s of ‘agency’, belonging’ and ‘competence’ are in place. Students who realize these factors succeed in school and in their lives overall.
All school ought to start listening carefully.
Such listening has the power to make both teaching and learning more fun.