Many of the very organizations, programs, and agencies that are engaging student voice are oftentimes blindsiding their targets. Without concern for authenticity, ability, or desire, these student voice activities are focused on listening to “students in the raw”, meaning learners who haven’t been taught about what they’re trying to change.
These same attempts often remove students from their communities or schools, sit them in a room, and drill into them the importance of an issue that adults have determined they need to hear student voice focused on. Well-intended though they may be, they teach their student participants the adults’ perspectives, or they teach them nothing at all. After that, they ask students to stand up for that issue, and with or without being conscious of it, students eagerly comply.
Working with many situations over the years, I have found this to be a relatively consistent phenomenon, and I believe that ultimately, it is selling students short.
As I share regularly in teacher workshops, professional development seminars, and keynote speeches, Student Voice is any expression of any learner in any place about education. It is NOT only things adults approve of, and is so much more than what generally passes for student voice today.
Students deserve more than opportunities to share student voice. That is why I researched the field and worked with students and adults nationally and internationally to develop my Frameworks for Meaningful Student Involvement. When students become interested in changing schools, we should work our hardest to position them as active partners in transformation, and nothing less than that.