Thursday, August 29, 2013

Learner Voice = Authenticity in Learning

Learner voice gives learners a chance to share their opinions about something they believe in. There are so many aspects of "school" and "learning" where learners have not been given the opportunity to be active participants. Giving them voice encourages them to participate in their own learning. Some learners, especially those that are concerned about extrinsic factors like grades, may not feel comfortable expressing their own opinions. Because of this concern, teachers have devised multiple ways to give learners their voice anonymously in surveys, group interviews, and in class discussions. Now it is time to look at learner voice and why it matters for all learners.

In the Student At the Center Report: Motivation, Engagement, and Student Voice, Eric Toshalis and Michael J. Nakkula stated that:
"by the time they become seniors, high school students have devoted over 12,000 hours of seat time to observing classroom decision making. You can bet they have opinions about what they have received! To have the opportunity to say what they think and then be heard by others can help lead students to an awareness of being included and valued as a member of that community."
In this same section on Student Voice, Mitra, and Gross shared in their article "Increasing Student Voice in High School Reform" Educational Management Administration & Leadership 2009,
"When students believe that they are valued for their perspectives and respected, they begin to develop a sense of ownership and attachment to the organization in which they are involved." 
Just think about you, your learners or your own child not having a voice when you are part of some activity, organization, or school. How did you feel? When you have a voice and you are heard, you feel valued and respected. We like to feel we belong and that we have something to contribute.

 What Kids Can Do (WKCD) embraced student voice as one of their guiding principles to welcome youth as crucial investors in improving their schools and communities.   
Kathleen Cushman and Barbara Cervone at WKCD share that there is a lot to learn about the complexities of student voice and that meaningful voice must:
  • Be inclusive, beginning with the premise that everyone has membership
  • Be woven into the daily fabric of school (and reach far beyond after school clubs and "one-off" events)
  • Target substantive issues
  • Involve asking and listening by all parties
  • Lead to constructive action.
Link to "Just Listen" videos from What Kids Can Do

So what does voice mean to a teenager? Check out Ned's Gr8 8 Tips:


This makes sense if you give learners a voice, they'll probably tell you to make it relevant, make it so they can use it and not lose it.

Check out a new site on Student Voice where they have The Student Voice Digital Backpack that provides teachers, students and communities tools to give learners their voice. Some of the tools include:

Suggestion Box Mentality
Student Voice Photobooth
Student Activist Backpack Constitutional Rights

You can follow Student Voice #stuvoice on Twitter and share your voice. Include our hashtag #plearnchat so we can follow you. Back to the report from Toshalis and Nakkula Motivation, Engagement, and Student Voice (#jfftweets)
Motivation, engagement, and voice are the trifecta of student-centered learning 
Without motivation, there is no push to learn.
Without engagement, there is no way to learn.
Without voice, there is no authenticity in the learning.