Anyone who has been involved in education knows that trends come and go – it seems that every five years there is a new idea, a new law, or a new curriculum that must be implemented only to be replaced five years later. One trend, however, that is not going away is that of elevating student voice in the classroom and that is because the benefits of elevating student voice are many.
There are many variations of the definition of student voice, but each includes two parts: that of the student and that of the teacher. According to St. John and Briel, student voice “refers to the expression of values, opinions, beliefs, and perspectives of individuals and groups of students in a school and to instructional approaches and techniques that are based on student choices, interests, passions, and ambitions.” (St. John & Briel, 2017). In other words, student voice is 1) the expression of students and 2) the instructional strategies by teachers.
While there are multiple benefits to elevating student voice in a classroom, we will focus on just three, all of which center around students.
- Students are more motivated
When teachers quiet their own voices in order to elevate student voices, students get more invested in class, and when they are more invested, they become more engaged. According to research “…students who believe they have a voice in school are 7x more likely to be academically motivated than students who do not believe they have a voice.” (Quaglia Institute for School Voice and Aspirations, 2016)
QuaverSEL includes resources that elevate student voices. For example, the Community Gathering screen provides guidelines and prompts for students to respond to. The purpose of the Community Gathering is to give students opportunities to speak and share about social and emotional topics instead of a teacher delivering direct instruction. Through a social and emotional learning lesson, students can practice sharing their voices and also work together to create a safe community, which is another benefit of elevating student voices.
- Students feel a greater sense of belonging
According to CASEL, “students have a unique perspective on how high-level decisions impact day-to-day life of the school, and their voices are critical to schoolwide SEL implementation and fostering equitable learning environments.” (CASEL, 2021) When students are able to share their perspectives and voices, they begin to feel like a valued member of the school community. However, before they are willing to share their voices, students must feel safe, accepted, and respected. When students feel safe, accepted, and respected, they begin to feel attached to and care for their school community. When they feel attached to and care for their school community, students feel proud.
A goal for any teacher and school site should be for students to have healthy relationships in their lives. Having a sense of belonging to a safe and supportive community is just one step for students to have health relationships.
- Students feel increase sense of self-worth
One of the most important relationships anyone can have is the relationship with self. Helping to build students’ self-worth and self-confidence can be achieved through acknowledging the contributions they bring to a classroom. An educator can recognize students not only for academic achievements, but for social and emotional achievements as well. For example, if a teacher acknowledges a student because of the kindness shown during a small group activity, the student will have a boost of self-confidence, and other students may want to be recognized for being kind as well.
QuaverSEL includes confidence-building songs such as “You-Nique.” This inspiring song tells students that no one else in the whole wide world is exactly like them. The song says, “The world is waiting on your voice.” What an uplifting and encouraging message that boosts self-worth and self-confidence.
When educators provide space for students to share their voices and opinions, students may begin to feel empowered. In elevating student voice in a classroom, the benefits extend beyond just one student. When students feel motivated, like they belong, and that they are valuable, they will positively contribute to their school and community.
Elizabeth King is the QuaverSEL Brand Manager. Before joining QuaverEd, Elizabeth taught for 18 years. She strongly believes in elevating student voices while trying to quiet her own.
CASEL. (2021). Elevate Student Voice. CASEL. https://schoolguide.casel.org/focus-area-3/school/elevate-student-voice/
Quaglia Institute for School Voice and Aspirations. (2016). School Voice Report. Quaglia Institute Voice and Aspirations. Retrieved April 10, 2021, from https://quagliainstitute.org/dmsView/School_Voice_Report_2016
St. John, K., & Briel, L. (2017, April). Student Voice: A growing movement within education that benefits students and teachers. Center on Transition Innovations, 1-3. https://centerontransition.org/publications/download.cfm?id=61