by John McCarthy, EdS – Follow on Twitter

When it comes to learning, involving the learner is important. Reflect on how you learn best. Having a say so as to align or customize the experiences is something that most of us prefer. Why would our students feel any different. These resources below are part of a conference session about steps towards empowering student voice in the classroom. There are some simple steps to follow:

  1. Teachers give up sole control.
    Share decision-making with students. When we strive to control what others do, the results rarely meet expectations, if we want students to think and act for themselves. We don’t want robots at the end of the day. We want thinkers. And thinkers will want a say in what they do and how they do it, or they will go underground.
  2. Learners CAN rise to the occasion if given space to act
    When given free will to choose and act, students do need guidance on how to use this shared power. It’s a responsibility for the giver (teacher) and the receiver (students). Students are enculturated to sit quietly and with minimal movement. They are told what to do and when to do it. So when we give students freedom from these shackles, they either resist, wanting what has been normal and known. Or they go crazy, behaving in ways that are not as productive as we’d like.

    So, teach students how to act and think when given this responsibility. Coach them.

Learn more about Student Voice from my Supporting References listed at the bottom. Or follow and contact me on Twitter and InstagramSubscribe to my Youtube channel for new content and researched examples of best practices in learning and teaching.

  • Need to Know process (reference)
    This process gives students control of their learning by allowing them to list questions about the lesson and unit. They decide when a question is fully answered. The basic structure is similar to the K-W-L strategy, only more student-led.

  • Student-Generated Norms (reference)
    Students create the norms for how they and the teacher can support everyone in their learning. Here is an example of Norm development steps and of Norms:

  • Critique Protocols (reference)
  • Researchers
    Have students in teams collect and organize info that is normally included in a lecture about core facts. The teams then organize the information, and then share out. Teacher fills in gaps in understanding after each team has reported. 

  • Student-Designed products
    • Teacher gives criteria for evaluation. Keep guidelines to just the learning that students must demonstrate.
    • Let students propose products or performances that meet the evaluation criteria.
    • The teacher either approves the proposal or sends back students to develop a new proposal. 
    • Have 1-2 options that students can choose if they do not come up with an approved proposal within the scheduled deadline.

  • Project Based Learning & Authentic Learning Experiences
    References: onetwo
    Empower students with the voice to make a difference in the community. Authentic Learning Experiences and Project Based Learning are excellent ways to bring context to academics to students’ lives.

  • Let students determine learning focus and align objectives to their work. 
    Give students opportunities to explore their own learning, based on their interests. They can apply academic skills to ideas that they are passionate about. Here are 2 youtube playlists to give examples. Subscribe to my Youtube channel for new content and researched examples of best practices in learning and teaching.


Useful References for More Resource Ideas