Tagged: learner voice

Student Voice in the News

Over the Easter weekend there was outcry at the NASUWT conference because of students interviewing teachers and taking more control. In a typical polarisation of opinions Jeremy Vine interviewed Stephen Heppell and some other professor (I only know this much because this professor wasn’t given much of a chance to speak). Heppell made some good points about how students can offer real insight into how teachers can improve and respond to student learning needs. The other professor made a contrasting point about a breakdown in school’s authority to lead. This didn’t contradict Heppell but his argument was to suggest that non-one would be daft enough to make their decisions entirely in response to student popularity.

The problem is that the idea that schools are suffering a crisis of confidence is a reality. Many school leaders are looking for the next big idea to improve their results and there will be some who are following the idea of student voice without really understanding the point. They are doing what  they are told. The government are telling them to jump to the latest Ofsted scaremongering or to reach even more challenging targets and they are so keen to jump they are forgetting to question why they are jumping or if it will make a difference.

Meanwhile some student from a student’s association was interviewed on Saturday and he said that schools need to realise that students are the customer and they should be meeting their needs. This seems to fly in the face of a partnership. If students are passively waiting for things to be as they want them and disown their responsibility then of course things aren’t going to improve.

Do learners know what they want?

This presentation from the Futurelab learner conference challenges the “notion of [students], as learners, being able to conceive of the future of their learning, being able to articulate that, and it seems to us very problematic”. It is a good question. The usual idea is that we ask the children but children can state preferences. They are less likely to be able to tell us what they want. Invariably they can only choose from the things that are currently available. This is another example of defining children with greater agency than they have. It also disempowers or disaggregates responsibility from those responsibility for learning or care etc.