Student Voice Emerges In…

Student voice, which I define as any expression of any student about any aspect of education and learning, has many different expressions. As the movement to promote student voice advances toward the mainstream education conversation in the United States and worldwide, there are many different streams emerging in practice.

Almost a decade ago, I saw the emerge of these streams come out of the research database supporting student voice. This research showed that
many different areas of education were initially concerned with student voice, some stemming back to the 1970s and before. These studies examine student voice from many perspectives.

There’s a place where all this student voice comes together in a cohesive vision for schools, and that is what I call Meaningful Student Involvement, or MSI. MSI is a model for school improvement that strengthens the commitment of students to education, community and democracy. It re-envisions the roles of students in equitable partnerships with adults throughout the learning environment. It promotes student engagement by securing roles for students in every facet of the educational system and recognizes the unique knowledge, experience and perspective of each individual student. Meaningful Student Involvement acknowledges that student voice emerges in many facets of education

Student Voice Emerges In…

  • Classroom pedagogy—This is the crux of teaching, learning, and assessment in all schools. Teachers study, practice, and critically examine pedagogy, often identifying places where student voice can strengthen their practice.
  • School climate and culture—The environment for teaching and learning is determined by the climate and culture of the school. Student voice drives relationships between students, teacher and staff behavior, and the interactions between students and teachers.
  • Extracurricular activities—Student government, clubs, sports, and any other activity not directed by classroom pedagogy happens in extracurricular activities. The efficacy of out-of-classroom learning is determined by student voice.
  • Education leadership—Building principals, local and state boards of education, education agency staff, and federal politicians fall into this category. Student voice can better inform, consult, negotiate, and drive these decisions towards effectiveness.
  • Formal school improvement—Every K-12 public school in the United States is compelled by federal law to have a formal school improvement plan. Integrating student voice throughout this process can lead educators towards improved outcomes for all learners.
  • Public school reform action—Students around the world are asserting their voices into the national dialogue about education transformation, public school privatization, and other essential conversations by leading student organizing, participating in community-led school reform, and active protest movements.

Student voice is most emergent throughout these areas in six primary roles: Students as education researchers, school planners, classroom teachers, learning evaluation, system decision-makers, and education advocates. What differentiates Meaningful Student Involvement from student voice, and perhaps the most important consideration, are the characteristics I identified early in my research.

Do YOU see an intersection between all the different types of student voice? 

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

Published by Adam F.C. Fletcher

I'm a speaker and writer who researches, writes and shares about youth, education, and history. Learn more about me at

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