UNSW joint venture to help department hear students’ voices

Department, university and school staff have contributed to a new trial that is allowing students with disability to give feedback on their experiences at school

Students with moderate to high support needs have been trialling methods such as photo voice and body mapping alongside an accessible student voice survey to provide their feedback to teachers and the department.

Professor Iva Strnadova (UNSW) and teachers who work with students with complex needs helped develop some of the innovative methods being trialled, and hope to roll them out at scale across the state. Read more about this research here.

Videos show the work in action and feature students from Chalmers Road School, where the first trials were held earlier this year

"This is amazing…for our students to have a voice!” said Michelle Davies, Principal, Chalmers Road School

“Quite often, families or teachers and school learning support officers are the voice for our students. By doing the survey in the variety of ways that we are able to do it now, it really gives that authentic...inner voice the opportunity to come out and let us know [what students are thinking]. Everyone has that right."

Dr Brydan Lenne, who has been co-ordinating the trial for the Disability Strategy team, agreed.

“Schools for specific purposes (SSPs) and support units often give feedback that while the department’s existing ways to hear student voice work well for some students with disability, they aren’t accessible for all.”

“It’s been fantastic to be able to co-design and trial these methods while receiving crucial feedback from our amazing teachers, who understand that for students with some disabilities, communication isn’t always straightforward or linear.”

The trial includes 24 schools, and involves teachers being supported to use the methods over terms 3 and 4, 2020.

Teachers have already begun implementing changes in the classroom based on student contributions during the trial, and school communities have been encouraged to have high expectations on how students with disability can contribute to co-designing their learning.

It is hoped that eventually student voice data gathered using the new methods can be assessed and actioned at all levels of the department.

Teachers not involved in the trial are also welcome to try using some of the methods shown in the videos on this page with their students. If you have questions or would like to know more, please email the Disability Strategy team.

Students and staff at Chalmers Road School demonstrate the photo voice method
Students and staff at Chalmers Road School demonstrate the accessible survey
Students and staff at Chalmers Road School demonstrate the body mapping method
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