Capturing and measuring student voice
This report was originally published 01 November 2016.
'Student voice' refers to the views of students on their experiences of school and learning. Listening to student voice is a powerful way for teachers, school leaders and education researchers to systematically look inside the ‘black box’ of learning from the perspective of the learner (Black & Wiliam 1998). Student voice enables schools (and the broader education community) to learn from students how they see school, and to build a better understanding of factors that affect student learning.
This Learning Curve focuses on capturing and measuring student voice as a way to gain insights into, and improvements in, student engagement. It deals with four key research questions: Why measure student voice? How and when should student voice be measured? What questions can and should be asked? And how should student voice be interpreted? This Learning Curve can be read in conjunction with a series of case studies that look at how NSW public schools have been using the Tell Them From Me survey to measure student voice, assist with school decision-making and improve school outcomes.
What is student voice?
Student voice refers to the perspective of students on their experience of education. In its simplest form, this can mean asking students’ opinions about playground procedures or school uniform. The concept of student voice, nonetheless implies more than simple consultation with students. It is also about recognising that students have distinctive views on their schooling; and affording students the opportunity to influence their own school experience by listening and responding to student feedback (Cook-Sather 2006).
The concept of student voice, when thought about in this way, places value on the diverse thoughts, beliefs and perspectives of students and incorporates these into school decision-making and the cyclical processes of planning, self-assessment and ongoing improvements. For example, a school may be interested in how to improve classroom practices, therefore they may survey students to gain an understanding of their experiences. This data may be considered alongside other evidence the school holds about effective classroom practice and then used to inform change. Student voice thus becomes not only an understanding of the values, beliefs and opinions of students, but a tool that can be used to improve student outcomes and facilitate school change (Mitra 2003; Rudduck & Flutter 2000; Rudduck & Fielding 2006; Rudduck 2007). This is true across the education spectrum, starting from early childhood (see, for example, ACECQA 2016) through to further education, where student voice can be used both as an indicator of quality practice and a strategy to inform improvement.