Student voice in secondary schools : purpose, value and characteristics

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Cato, Nigel
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Master of Educational Leadership and Management
Unitec Institute of Technology
Cardno, Carol
Howse, Jo
Masters Dissertation
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
student voice
pupil participation
student engagement
community engagement
Cato, N. (2018). Student voice in secondary schools: Purpose, value and characteristics. A dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Educational Leadership and Management, Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand.
RESEARCH QUESTIONS: 1. What is the nature and purpose of student voice? 2. What are the perceived value and benefits of student voice to the key stakeholders in education? 3. What are the recommended, or ‘best practice’ procedures for the collection and use of student voice in schools? The term student voice is widely used at all levels of education throughout the world. Much has been written about the value and benefits of student voice, and its use is promoted strongly by education authorities, educators, human rights advocates and academics. However, there is no clear consensus as to how to define student voice or what its purpose should be. The literature reveals a wide range of forms, purposes and theoretical understandings. For a practising teacher, however, there is little clarity and common understanding as to how student voice should be collected and used. This study set out to investigate the nature and purpose of student voice; the perceived value and benefits of student voice for students and teachers; and to establish some guidelines as to best practice suggestions for the collection and use of student voice. An interpretive approach was adopted for this study which used mostly qualitative data about the experiences and perceptions of teachers and students. To collect this data, an electronic questionnaire was administered to 18 teachers and 84 year 13 students across three Auckland secondary schools which were considered to have some practical experience in the collection and use of student voice. The study found similarities and differences between the responses of teachers and students concerning the nature and purpose of student voice. Students tended to have a simpler view of student voice and emphasised the concept of human rights, while teachers placed more emphasis on student voice as a source of feedback to inform their practice, particularly in the context of Teaching as Inquiry. Both groups presented favourable opinions about the value and benefits of student voice, particularly in terms of improving classroom culture and gaining best learning outcomes, but students seemed somewhat weaker in their convictions than the teachers. Teachers focused entirely on teacher-initiated student voice experiences, whereas students also referred to student-initiated experiences. Interactions between the aspects of initiation and anonymity in the collection of student voice were found to have an important role in determining some of its key characteristics. The study proposes a conceptual model of student voice in four quadrants based on these interactions and recommends that schools should seek to hear and respond to all four types if they are to implement an authentic and robust student voice programme.
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