It Begins with the Listen

As promised, the next five days will be focused on what I call the “Five Elements of Personalized Learning”:

Voice, Choice, Pace, Place, Path

Today I’ll focus on voice. As is true for all five elements, there are many overlapping nuances to the elements and perhaps none more so than Voice and Choice. It’s challenging to talk about one without discussing the other; however, I’m hoping to tease out the subtle differences between the two.

Defining Voice

First Try:

Student voice is the means by which students articulate their needs and become partners in their own learning, negotiating ownership  with their teachers and peers. Students’ personal experiences, perspectives, interests and learning preferences are acknowledged, encouraged and valued. (Cobbled together from many sources.)

I like that definition, particularly the words partnership and ownership. With this first glance, the idea of student voice begins to take shape. Let’s see if we can bring out more dimension, though.

Second Try:

An essential ingredient to voice is the idea that teachers listen to what students have to say and then incorporate their voice into the leadership of the classroom.

There’s another great word…leadership.

Third Try:

“By voice, I mean the ability to recognize their own beliefs, practice articulating them in a variety of forms, and then find the confidence — and the platform — to express them.”

And finally, from  Edutopia:

Fourth Try:

“The term ‘Student Voice’ describes how students give their input to what happens within the school and classroom. Our desire is for students to know that their expertise, opinions and ideas are valued in all aspects of school life.”

In Practice

So let’s get more practical here. What does voice look like in our classroom? This is where it gets tricky…trying to distinguish voice from choice. Let’s see:

  • Students decide how they will show mastery of the curriculum standards. They are given the “I Can” statements and then must find evidence of mastery. That evidence is shared on their digital portfolio.
  • Students have a blog where they are encouraged to post anything relevant to their lives.
  • Utilizing other digital tools such as forums and surveys.
  • Student-led conferences

The Essentialness of Voice

So why is student voice so important? From the book, “Student Voice: The Instrument of Change”:

“When students believe their voices matter, they are more likely to be invested and engaged in their schools. When students believe teachers are listening to them, mutual trust and respect are likely to flourish. When students believe they are being heard and influencing decisions, schools become more relevant to students’ lives and are more likely to be seen as serving their needs.”

Moving Forward

As we roll into the last two months of school, I’m thinking about how I can create more opportunities for student voice. I’m interested in having the students run entire days, ala Paul Solarz from “Learn Like a Pirate” fame. They’re ready. I’ve also dreamed of introducing students to podcasting; there are numerous opportunities to utilize their voices, particularly if our audience is the world. Finally, I’ve tried to incorporate Twitter into our classroom on several different occasions but to no avail. Not one to give up too easily, I’m ready to throw it out there and see what these whiz kids can do.

So…how do you cultivate student voice in your classroom?






1 Comment

  1. sallydonnelly11 says: Reply

    I know personalized learning is a buzz word now. I did not know it involved these 5 principals. Thanks for sharing.

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