Supporting Youth Voice

Building student voice in the classroom, school, and district is a key to student-centered reforms. Here you will find an outline of the importance of, and links to, tools to support Student Voice.

Toolkit_youth_voice_cycleAccording to noted author and youth advocate Adam Fletcher, student voice is “the individual and collective perspective and actions of young people within the context of learning and education.” Fletcher highlights a number of reasons why student voice is central to the successful remodeling of our education system:

Student Voice Can Improve Learning

As partners, students can express what they need to be successful.  Self and peer evaluation also increase learning. When they plan educational activities, serve on committees, lead trainings, and conduct research about their school, students are fully engaged in the learning process.

Student Voice Can Improve Teaching

Teacher evaluations are more authentic and valuable when students are part of the assessment process, and teachers feel that they can be better mentors when their students are fully engaged and have an authentic role in their own learning.

Student Voice Can Improve School Climate and Culture

Adults prioritize differently when students are part of the decision-making process. This responsiveness strengthens students’ trust. Moreover, it helps ensure cultural, racial, economic, and social diversity in school improvement efforts.

Student Voice Can Improve Civic Engagement

When young people are authentically involved, they learn the kinds of participation and leadership skills that are necessary in the civic arena and the workplace. They gain a sense of belonging, purpose, and confidence that they can make a difference in the world.

Student Voice Can Improve the Bottom Line

Research demonstrates that when schools engage student voice, they can actually save time, energy, and money because students know what works for students.
Student Voice is more complex than it may seem at first blush. What Kids Can Do, a leading organization supporting student voice, states that Student Voice must:

  • Be inclusive
  • Be woven into the daily fabric of school (and reach far beyond after school clubs and “one-off” events)
  • Target substantive issues
  • Involve asking and listening by all parties
  • Lead to constructive action

P1010538.JPGPerhaps the biggest challenge, they argue, is finding “the sweet spot between too much and too little adult participation.” Young people need to be positioned as genuine problem-solvers but they also need adult allies and mentors, who listen attentively and draw on their years of experience to provide expert guidance.

To get started, these questions created by Sound Out, an organization dedicated to students speaking out, can help you thoughtfully consider how, when, and where youth will be engaged in a meaningful way. Below are links to more resources to help you build student voice in your school and community:

Toolkit Overview »