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Secondary students who have a voice in school are 7 times more likely to be academically motivated than those who do not.

Source: Quaglia Institute

Historically, our society has leaned toward telling adolescents what they need and every last detail of how to get it. The result? High levels of disengagement; low levels of effort.

If they are to exert real effort in their learning and emerge prepared for adult life, young people need to play an active role in co-creating their learning journeys.

To help young people feel genuinely involved in their own learning, as well as in ongoing decisions about their school, we need to consider some difficult questions. These questions have particular resonance as we consider what we know about student engagement and lack of engagement during COVID-related school closures:

  • How can a school invite honest input from students?
  • How can their contributions have a real influence on decisions and outcomes?
  • How can we ensure that every student develops a strong sense of belonging?
  • How can we build students’ confidence to voice their voices heard?
  • When is it appropriate for students to lead?
  • How can adults have genuine conversations with students about the academic preparation they need for future opportunities?

*Tip: Look back at Hart’s Ladder of Youth Participation for insights on how to engage students authentically in working through questions like these. 

Above all, we should avoid the pitfall of making assumptions about what students might be feeling. According to a national survey by the Quaglia Institute for Student Voice and Aspirations, “an alarming gap exists between teacher and student beliefs around decision making in the classroom.” While 97 percent of teachers said they encourage students to make decisions, only 60 percent of students believed so. More than eight in ten teachers said they actively seek student opinions and ideas, but fewer than half of students said teachers are willing to learn from them.

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Download the Student Voice in Learning Worksheet