5 Ways to Encourage Student Voice

Young people possess a unique perspective on the world that can enlighten adults. These students are the “customers” of our schools and possess insight into the support they need for healthy development. We give students a voice in school when we listen to their ideas and provide opportunities for them to enact change in their education. When we support student voice, it strengthens students’ confidence and helps them discover their unique skills.

How then do we involve students more in their education and help them become active contributors to their own learning? We found five different ideas.

Student debates and classroom discussions

An organized debate or classroom discussion opens up opportunities for students to share their perspective and ideas with their peers and teacher. For quieter students, brainstorming sessions offer a low-pressure way to get involved. Providing a student microphone can give those students more courage to speak up and give their input.

Incorporate student surveys and feedback

Specifically asking students for their input on their educational experience shows them that we value their opinions. They can give feedback on how the school is functioning overall or even just about their experience with the latest unit in their classroom. Some students desire more involvement and could conduct a study and assessment of the school. With their unique perspective, students’ findings provide valuable insight into schoolwide processes and policies.

Student participation in meetings that apply to them

Educators can involve students in meetings that pertain to them. Rather than talking about a student in an IEP, including that student and talking TO them can help them invest more in their education. Students can lead parent conferences, setting their own goals and discussing areas where they’d like to improve. Students can also participate in education conferences—some even present at these conferences!

Provide opportunities for creative expression

Students may take a more active role in their education when given the option for creative expression in their schoolwork. They can choose to present their efforts through art, essays, or presentations. Additionally, project-based learning and genius hour provide opportunities for students to direct their own learning and explore their own interests.  

Nurture student leadership

We easily spot leaders in the outgoing, outspoken kids, but students demonstrate leadership in other ways. Some students excel at teaching and mentoring other students. Others volunteer in their school and community. All forms of leadership deserve recognition and add value to a school community.

“When schools give students the agency and the tools to speak out, the effects can resonate across students’ lives.” –Leah Shafer

Students are not just future problem-solvers. They can make their schools, communities, and world better today. They just need the opportunity to speak up and have their voices heard.