The basis for student voice is to be found in Article 12 of the United Nation Convention of the Rights of the Child, which sets out the right of children and young people to express an opinion and to have that opinion taken into account when decisions are being made on any matter that affects them.
How many decisions at your school take into account the opinions of students?
I mean really take students’ opinions into account.
If we’re honest many of our efforts around student voice pay lip service at best.
What I mean is, who are the students we listen to? Do we act on the feedback they give us? Do we even need to, or are they the kids we know will say what we want to hear? Have a look at this from the Freechild project to check in with where you’re at in your school.
Having said that, I’ve come up with a simple survey that you could use as a starting point to engage the student voice.
1. What’s the best thing about being at this school?
Asking this question is taking a leaf straight out of the Appreciative Inquiry model of change. By knowing what we do well, we can use this to inform any changes we’d like to make. We can ask why does this work well. How can we leverage this to enhance other areas of our school?
2. What would you like to do more of at school?
This could throw up all manner of interesting ideas. It could be more kids would like to game. Or perhaps they’d like to explore personal interest project, maybe they’d like to chill out more… who knows… Whether you see any value in their suggestions? Well that’s up to you.
3. If you were in charge of the school what one thing would you like to change? – What makes you say this?
Ditto for this one, but crucially the reasons – the What makes you say this? – will prove more fertile ground for change
4. Do you feel able to be yourself at school? – If no, why not?
5. Is there at least one adult at school to whom you can go if you have a serious issue?
These two questions are vital questions to ask in any school. They are paramount for a student to feel connected to school. The importance of school connectedness is the subject of this 6min podcast. SPOILER ALERT – IT’S CRUCIALLY IMPORTANT
I would urge you to only engage the student voice, if you are genuinely willing to act upon the feedback.
You have to ask every kid. It could be anonymous, it could be done via pen & paper and put in a shoe box, or done via Google forms or Survey monkey.
Yes there are more in-depth surveys out there but as a start you could do worse than ask these questions.
If your school as a whole doesn’t want to buy in, as a classroom teacher you could ask your kids:
What was the best thing about this unit/lesson/subject? What would you have liked to do more of? What would you have changed?
I’ve done this with some very witty kids, where the answers have come back, ‘Nothing,’ ‘Chilled’ and ‘The teacher’. But give it time… publicly acknowledge and act on feedback and you’ll start to see a shift in the ownership kids take of their learning.
What else do you do to engage and empower the student voice in your communities?