Part 3: Student Voice Dos and Donts

The DOs and DON’Ts of Student Voice

Working with more than 500 student and adult participants in SoundOut Student Voice Workshops over the last year, I have compiled the following list of dos and don’ts for sharing student voice in education activities. The complete list includes planning activities, preparing students, actually facilitating activities, and sustaining student voice afterwards. Today’s post covers how to facilitate student voice activities. For the complete article email and ask.

To facilitate student
voice in education activities, DON’T…
£  Give
the impression that student voice only happens at your event.
£  Don’t
isolate students from adults, either in small groups or overall, without
thorough consideration.
£  Ask
students to address topics they could know nothing about without preparation.
£  Call
on one particular student to share repeatedly.
£  Instruct
students to make generalizations about other students.
£  Only
invite 10 students to join 1,000 adults at an education event; aim for equal
£  Limit
students to talk only about topics adults associate them with instead of broad
education issues. 
£  Put students
in traditional adult positions without the authority, ability, or knowledge adults
usually receive.
£  Neglect
to tell all people present—adults and students—the purpose of student voice and
their involvement. 
£  Undermine
student voice by letting adults and students think that students are being
£  Treat
student voice as unique, infallible, or otherwise put on a pedestal by
To facilitate student
voice in education activities, DO…
£  Tell
and engage students in multiple roles beyond being informants for adults.
£  See
and treat student voice as integral to school improvement.
£  Share
with students and adults that students only represent themselves and their own
£  Acknowledge
students the same way adults are acknowledged for attending.
£  Simply
listen to the words and ways students talk about issues, and ask for
clarification when needed.
£  Listen
to student voice in obvious ways (speaking, writing) and not other ways (art,
£  Give
students the explicit right and opportunities to raise issues and to fully
participate in activities.
£  Treat
listening to student voice as a culture to foster, not a checkbox to complete.
£  Allow
students to talk on a school’s social media sites and at in-person education
£  See
and treat students as full partners in the education system.
£  Engage
students in issues at the local building level, not in district, state, or
federal activities.

For more information about student voice in schools, visit

Published by Adam F.C. Fletcher

I'm a speaker, writer, trainer, researcher and advocate who researches, writes and shares about education, youth, and history.

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