As a graduate journalism student over 20 years ago, I worked on a thesis project centered on education reform news reporting. I was analyzing how often education reporters included students in their stories about education. Probably no surprise…it was almost non-existent.

Traditionally, no entity has ignored their primary customer, consumer or constituent more than education with students. I was fortunate enough early on as a beginning teacher to discover the power of student voice and student-generated ideas. Throughout my career, I have always benefited from asking my students what they thought, what they are interested in and where they would like things to go.

If we are serious about providing each and every student a truly transformational 21st century education, then we should consider including student voices in the following five school areas:

1. Learning Feedback

Having our students reflect on their learning and learning experiences are crucial to both student development and instructional growth. As teachers, we do a lot of things to improve our craft. But again, we rarely ask our students what is working for them and what we can do to help improve their learning experiences.

In general, students are both honest and willing to discuss what is going on with their education. Great teachers have always probably asked—formally or informally—how their students are doing and what can be better. But it’s time to make this a standard. We now have the ability for all educators to regularly engage all of their students about their learning.

If we want higher levels of learning, critical thinking and skills, we’re going to need to learn to get regular feedback from the most important player in education—the student.

2. Curricular Choice

With the onset of personalized tech and learning, we now have an unlimited number of ways to offer choice to our students. Higher forms of learning are predicated on the learner owning larger aspects of the learning itself. This happens through choice. If it’s a project, let’s offer different ways of delivering the final product. If it’s a research topic, let’s offer choices on various options. If it’s something to read, let’s not have students read the same thing, but rather read different things and then compare.

Choice not only creates buy-in and ownership necessary for higher-level learning, but creates an environment and learning culture that fosters innovation, confidence, risk taking and other necessary future skills. Efforts like #20 Time Projects, Genius Hour, and more are also great examples of allowing students greater freedom in the authentic learning they pursue.

(Next page: Including student voices in 3 more school areas)


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