Student and Youth Voice: Asking, Listening, and Taking Action

May 14, 2014

This collection from What Kids Can Do (WKCD) focuses on student and youth voice. This resource includes links to: the products and protocols of four national WKCD student voice and research projects; WKCD’s “Fires” book series in which students are co-investigators into critical topics in teaching and learning; a toolkit of student voice discussion starters, surveys, and rubrics; over 250 video clips from the WKCD series “Just Listen: Students Talk About Learning”; and over two dozen WKCD stories that showcase student voice and action.

Developed by: What Kids Can Do (WKCD)

Audience: Educators, administrators, students

Potential Use: Professional development – self-guided or group, Classroom activities, Parent/community/student discussion
This site can be explored for personal professional growth. The many descriptions of student voice in action may spark many ideas. The stories about youth making change and video clips of youth discussing learning could also be used for discussion and applications with students.


The nonprofit What Kids Can Do (WKCD) has gathered and supported student work for more than 12 years. While filled with concrete tools and ideas, this WKCD student voice and research collection is perhaps best used as a source of exemplars for how projects that build high levels of motivation and engagement can set students’ minds “on fire.”

Good to know: a Road Map to this Resource


This section of the WKCD site bundles together a large number of resources – explore for a few hours, or visit the website multiple times in short spurts.


No registration is needed to view documents. However to download them, registration with Edutopia is required. You can follow the text link on any resource page.

Content Map

The main page of Student and Youth voice collection acts as an index and provides access all of the sections from this main page. On the right is a directory of key WKCD tools related to student voice:

Discussion Starters/Surveys
includes descriptions of 5 tools (with links to downloadable pdfs) which can be used to help build discussion with students and used in the classroom.

Major WKCD Student Voice Projects features four multi-year projects including:

    • Students As Allies in School Reform (survey research about school climate and culture by student teams in Chicago, Houston, Oakland, Philadelphia, and St. Louis)
    • Hear Us Out: Students Talk About Going to College (surveys and interviews about supports for college with 25 student researchers and more than 500 students in Hamilton County, TN and Seattle, WA)
    • Student Research for Action (student-initiated action research projects in 52 schools and 17 states) Inside Out: How a School Turns Itself Around (an online journal by students at Central High School, Providence, RI)

Follow the links to a separate website or section of the WKCD site for each project. Project sites include detailed descriptions as well as documents associated with each project such as reports, articles, and tools.

“Fires” Series/Next Generation Press
includes a list of a half dozen books published by WKCD’s Next Generation Press with a short description. WKCD may be best known for their series of “Fires” books. Clicking on the title will take you to a link where you can purchase the book.

Just Listen Clips/Other Videos
The Just Listen channel on YouTube features more than 200 1-2 minute clips of interviews with students talking about learning. It is organized into topic areas such as “Why Do Kids Care?” and “Kids Discuss Habits of Mind”. Use the menu at the top to select playlists dedicated to specific themes like: “The Teacher-Student Relationship” and “Just-Right Learning Challenges”. It also highlights four student documentaries on school equality, redesign, and access to higher education; as well as a video hear Us Out: Seattle Students Talk About the Path to College.

WKCD Stories About Youth Voice
showcases more than two dozen stories of youth organizing and speaking up to create change, such as a the story of Youth United for Change in Philadelphia or young filmmakers look at their schools as part of The Way We See It initiative. On the page you can read a short description. Click on the Title to read a longer article about each.

External Links
provides links to half a dozen websites of organizations focused on student voice.

Navigation Tips

      • Move between resources using the navigation on the right. You can also scroll up or down the page through the first four resources, but to access the WKCD Stories About Student and Youth and Voice or the External Resources you will have to click on the menu on the right.
      • Some links to older stories and projects on the site are broken, especially on the WKCD Stories About Youth Voice page.

Key Resources

Who Are You?: A Questionnaire for Students on Their First Day of School: This two-page questionnaire asks students to share their interests and learning styles. It could be a great way to learn ways to link into students’ passions to create learning opportunities that students will see as valuable.

Student Voice Rubric: This rubric was designed by students who are part of the Student Voice Collaborative in New York City. It provides a great way to evaluate the level of student voice, looking at topics like communication and culture of listening, peer support organizations, and fostering self-advocacy.

Just Listen Clips: This channel on YouTube features more than 200 1-2 minute clips of interviews with students talking about learning. It is organized into topic areas such as “Why Do Kids Care?” and “Kids Discuss Habits of Mind”. This clips provide insight into how kids view learning and school. They could also be used in many creative ways with students to spark discussions or introduce lessons on how students learn, the importance of persistence, how to create change, or a host of other topics.


Fires of the Mind Blog: You can sign up for a weekly blog to receive more stories and clips about student voice from WKCD.

How does this align with student-centered learning research and practice?

The Students at the Center research synthesis, Motivation, Engagement, and Student Voice explores the current research on this topic. One of the authors of that work, Eric Toshalis, developed a related resource Motivation, Engagement, and Student Voice Toolkit – a professional development series based on the paper to help put research concepts into practice. Student voice is also a key factor in motivation that links directly to one of SATC’s four tenets, student-owned learning.

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