“Student Voice” is something that many schools are focusing on and for a good reason. If we, as educators, understand that we serve our students and not the other way around, getting their thought and feedback for not only problems but solutions in moving our schools forward, is crucial.
From my experience though, I have seen a lot of money, time, and effort, in getting thoughts and feedback from students, listening to their voice, and then often, no action based on what they have shared. Dean Shareski wrote a challenging post on this and shared the following thoughts on “Student Voice”:
We certainly are doing well to provide students with more say, more choice and more power to own their own learning. For too long, they have been relative pawns in education where adults made all the decisions about when what, where and how they learned. We’ve now entered a more enlightened time where things are beginning to shift. In some places, this shift is well underway and in other places, much work is left to be done but there are few places where this isn’t a conversation.
But providing increased say and power to students shouldn’t negate the knowledge, wisdom and dare I say, the authority of adults who provide the structure and foundation of education. I believe that adults and those with experience ought to be given greater say and voice when it comes to education and probably most things related to working with children. Education, like parenting, is not a democracy. Children lack the maturity, experience, and knowledge to make all the decisions in their educational careers. Children are certainly equal to adults in terms of rights and opportunities. They are not equal in terms of their decision-making skills.
When it comes to students I’m fine with hearing what students want from their education. However, they don’t know what they don’t know. It’s why I object to a full-on personalized learning experience if that’s being interpreted as students make all the decisions. That’s just a bad idea. Should students voices matter in how their schooling looks? Certainly. Students can provide us with insights we might be missing. We should be asking them for input into decisions that impact themselves and education more broadly. Should their ideas matter the same as the adults? I don’t think so. Again, if you’re struggling with this statement, think of yourself as a parent. If you let your children make all the decisions about their lives, you’d likely have some pretty selfish and poorly adjusted kids. Our role isn’t simply to provide them with whatever they need but also to guide and direct them into what it means to develop into healthy, happy and productive humans. If we truly care for children, we’ll offer them our wisdom and lead them as an act of love.
I agree with much of what Dean shares in this post. Educators (at all levels) are the experts on learning, and their voice is crucial in moving forward and school or district. My struggle is when we ask and don’t follow up. When being asked for feedback, isn’t it crucial that we consider it and follow up with our actions (or even lack thereof) based on what has been shared?
So what is the missing component? Reflection to move forward. If we bring our students together to hear their voice, it is essential that we share our actions or inaction based on their thoughts.
Reflection is not only crucial in the case of “Student Voice” but in our development as individuals and organizations.
In this article by Col. Eric Kail, they share why leadership is crucial to growth:
Gaining wisdom from an experience requires reflection. In thinking back on the significant events of my life, experiences good and bad, it was the act of assigning meaning that has made all the difference for me. Reflection requires a type of introspection that goes beyond merely thinking, talking or complaining about our experiences. It is an effort to understand how the events of our life shape the way in which we see the world, ourselves and others. And it is essential for any leader.
Reflection is what links our performance to our potential. It is the process of properly unpacking ourselves as leaders for the good of others.
Looking back becomes beneficial to moving forward only if we take action based on what we have learned. Below, are three simple questions that will not only help you look back but also take action.
The hope is that these questions can apply to all age levels and people within education but why these three questions?
The first one is to celebrate your strengths. If we focus only on what went wrong or didn’t go well our confidence can be destroyed. Always start with strengths. Always.
The second one is to remind us that we can grow. All of us. Myself included.
The third one is meant to lead to action. We can look back, but action helps us move forward. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your action moving forward will lead to better results in the immediate future, but inaction guarantees nothing will happen at all. If it doesn’t work, go back, reflect, retry, repeat.
Whether it is a reflection on what we learn from others or what we learn about ourselves, what we do with what we have learned is what moves us into the future. Standing still while the world moves ahead only ensures we are falling behind.
What will you do with what you have learned?