Selling Students Short

We are selling students short. Many of the very organizations, programs, and agencies that are engaging student voice are oftentimes blindsiding their targets.

I say we are selling students short because student voice is often inauthentic. Students are incapacitated from participating fully in conversations about schools.

What Makes Student Voice Inauthentic

  • Little Adults: Pulled from their schools, in order to share student voice, students are expected to talk how adults talk, dress how adults dress, and act like adults act.
  • Taught their Opinions: Drilled in the importance of a specific issue that adults have determined they need to hear student voice focused on, adults teach students adults’ perspectives only. After that, they ask students to stand up for that issue in the ways adults agree with.
  • Little or No Room for Dissent. With or without being conscious of it, students whose voices are heard by adults eagerly comply with adults. Those who don’t comply aren’t given room to disagree, and are frequently railroaded out of student voice activities.
  • No Credit for Participation. Adult educators are often paid for their time to participate in extra-curricular activities. Students receive little or no credit for participating, whether in the form of money or class credit. Students who can’t afford to skip classes or attend at night are excluded from activities.

Working with many situations over the years, I have found these traits and a few others to be relatively consistent, and I believe that ultimately, it is selling students short.

As I share regularly in teacher workshops, professional development seminars, and keynote speeches, Student Voice is any expression of any learner in any place about education. It is NOT only things adults approve of, and is so much more than what generally passes for student voice today.

Students deserve more than opportunities to share student voice. That is why I researched the field and worked with students and adults nationally and internationally to develop my Frameworks for Meaningful Student Involvement. When students become interested in changing schools, we should work our hardest to position them as active partners in transformation, and nothing less than that.

Learn how at and contact me for more info.

8 Keys to Student Voice in Learning

Student Voice, which is any expression of any student about anything related to education and learning, can be infused into all classrooms to help students learn better.

It can be easy to misbelieve that Student Voice is just about letting students have a say in what, how, why, when, or where they’re taught. That is not true. Student Voice is any expression of students. Here are some points to guide your understanding about Student Voice and learning.

  1. All Student Voice Matters. 
  2. Every Learning Relationship Matters.
  3. Students Aren’t Incomplete. 
  4. Total Responsibility Is Shared. 
  5. Students Know Things. 
  6. Equity, Not Equality. 
  7. It’s About Learning, Teaching, AND Leadership.
  8. Student Voice Requires More Than Just Talking.

Want to learn more? Check out The Guide To Student Voice by Adam Fletcher, available now on In a simple, easy-to-read format, its detail all the major details anyone needs to know about student voice, including what it is, when it happens, who its for, why it matters, and how to engage students in student voice work. 
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

Students Can POWERFULLY Change Schools!

The SoundOut Student Voice Curriculum: Teaching Students to Change Schools transforms learning, teaching, and leadership throughout schools! For the first time, its available on for YOU to order now! Find it right now here.

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

SoundOut Student Voice Tip Sheet

Here’s the new graphic version of the SoundOut Student Voice Tip Sheet!
For your own PDF of this tip sheet, contact us with the button above.

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

Rediscovery the Library

So much has been written about student voice in these last 5 years that it’s threatening to make the SoundOut Student Voice Library a bit obsolete. However, this is still an essential source for key early writing, research, and publications related to student voice, student engagement, and Meaningful Student Involvement. Enjoy!

SoundOut Student Voice Library -

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

Meaningful Student Involvement in Educational Leadership Magazine

Adam Fletcher believes that schools should move students beyond engagement, which is merely an emotional state, and toward active involvement. To foster such involvement, schools need to give students opportunities to participate in activities that are meaningful and relevant. In this article, Fletcher offers several examples of roles for students. He tells stories of student involvement in school planning, teaching, and professional development. Students advocating for educational improvement, researching classroom climate, and leading new approaches to learning and teaching stand along side one another in the architecture of involvement that Fletcher endorses, demonstrating what school change looks like when the hearts, heads, and hands of students are infused throughout the process.

This is a description of an article I wrote for the November 2008 (Volume 66, Number 3) edition of Educational Leadership magazine. The theme for the edition was “Giving Students Ownership of Learning”, and my article was called The Architecture of Ownership.

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

Checking Student Voice Assumptions

Before you get started with your student voice project, you want to check your assumptions.

You might begin by saying to your group, “Before getting started in actually engaging student voice, there are some important questions we have to ask ourselves and our school:

  • What is the vision for students in our school? 
  • What is the motivation for involving students? 
  • What expectations do we have for students and adults in the school? 
  • What roles can students play? 
  • What resources exist to ensure success for involving students in our school?
    After you’ve considered those questions, have conversations about addressing any issues that may have arisen, and then move forward!

    Adapted from the SoundOut Student Voice Curriculum, copyright 2013 Adam Fletcher for CommonAction. Learn more.

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

    How to Solve the Biggest Problem in Schools

    As a pathway towards enfranchisement of students as full humans, student voice in schools is one avenue. Others include youth engagement throughout society, including civic, economic, cultural, recreational, and familial activities. Further still, the creation of advanced structures of support for young people, including training, funding, and personal support programs, will help take society there.

    More specifically, there are many ways that students and adults can move schools towards transformation. Here are a few different takes on this from my blog:

    Ultimately though, the most powerful step any of us can take is to transform the ways we see and treat children and youth every single day. If every one of us changed our own attitudes and behaviors, we would see the complete engagement of young people emerge as a new cultural norm within a generation. More importantly though, we would continue to influence and motivate succeeding generations of children and youth as they change the world they live in.

    I believe there is no greater action we can take.

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

    Solving the Biggest Problem in Schools

    Meeting the challenge of having one group of humans routinely treat another group as less-than-human simply because of their age is a vexing one. However, before we can meet that challenge we should envision what the answer is to the question we’re trying to solve.

    Here is my vision of students as fully human:

    Seen and treated with the rights, responsibilities, and capabilities of a human, all young people are routinely and meaningfully involved throughout the entire education system, with more than their voice as a placeholder and no less than their sustained lifelong engagement in learning as the outcome.

    Walking into an average school, the physical appearance, daily operation, and every outcome will be wholly transformed by engaging students as fully human. Rather than stuffy hallways packed with hyper-frenetic students seeking momentary relief between classes, children and youth of all ages will be welcome to come and go at will throughout environments designed by their minds, too.

    Recognized as self-driven learners from their earliest years, all students everywhere will be in charge of their own learning, and because of that, every single student will be completely motivated and surely empowered to initiate, drive, fulfill, and complete education to their own satisfaction.

    Attendance in schools won’t be limited by age, either. Rather, students will be able to select the learning environment that best suits their desires. Adult learners will co-mingle with young learners as both learn to value the other in new ways.

    The hearts and minds of adults will continue to expand as well. Our ability to more effectively engage young people in equitable ways will become invaluable as social change moves more rapidly. People who currently practice and teach the practices of student engagement and voice will be mainstreamed in professional development across all fields of industry, economy, governance, education, human services, and beyond. The frameworks of Meaningful Student Involvement will be seen as essential components for successful learning far beyond schools, as the role of the learner becomes ubiquitous throughout all sectors of society.

    When students are engaged as fully human, educational management will be transformed as well, and necessarily so. Given the ability to vote from birth, the voices of students will suddenly be valued by politicians in a new way. Those who did ran early programs to engage youth voice will be awarded with immediate youth support, while others will be required to earn the trust of students. School board members, state, territorial, and federal parliament members, mayors, all elected positions will suddenly be held directly accountable to students themselves. This will lead to a kind of authority that completely transforms educational management in a variety of ways. Pushing for the type of participatory engagement they routinely experience on the Internet today, children and youth will insist upon active democratic processes that reflect their best interests. School bureaucracies will be forced to reinvent their activities to suit the expectations of the elected representatives that control their budgets, who in turn will be voted in by young people.

    The outcomes of these systems will be as radical as their transformations. Academic achievement will no longer be the measure by which school performance is metered. Rather, students will come to understand that personal engagement throughout their own lives and within the larger world they’re members of is more important. Schools will devise systems for measuring self-sustainability, personal growth, and social well-being. Their actions will be valued throughout the larger society, as the health of democracies suddenly spikes upon these transformative measures. Ultimately, economic growth, civic engagement, social contributions, cultural inheritances, and peace and nonviolence will be seen as the outcomes of the experience of schooling.

    These are some of the outcomes of seeing, treating, and experiencing students as fully human. The next question is how we get there from here.

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

    The Biggest Problem in Schools Today

    The biggest problem in schools today is actually one that’s vexed adults in education for almost all times.
    The problem is the reality that children and youth—students, the actual reason why schools exist—don’t do exactly what adults want them to, when they want them to, where they want them to, how they want them to. 
    The main reason this happens is that adults don’t recognize that all children and youth are fully human right now. They are not adults-in-the-making or halfway people; they are full humans right now.
    Seeing them as other than that is par for the course in schools. It is why curriculum was formulated how it was for thousands of years, and necessitates the attitudes, actions, and perceptions of teachers every day. Everything in schools is predicated on this perception of young people as less-than-fully-human.
    This perception allows adults throughout the education system to treat students as the passive recipients of education, rather than active partners. After generations of this treatment, many students have lost their imagination and the ability to see themselves contributing equally to the teaching and leadership roles throughout education, rather, accepting that learning means sitting quietly and accepting whatever adults dole out. Without a vote, without authority, and without equitable relationships with adults, students do not have the right to dissent, free speech, or self-control. Ultimately, they surrender their humanity in schools every single day. 
    Society is driving young people towards a different reality than has ever been experienced before. Fully capable of accessing the world through technology and social networking, students are less reliant on adults-as-overseers than ever before. Instead, they are making long strides towards securing a new relationship with adults on their own terms. 
    However, rather than allowing society to descend headlong into the furrows of anarchistic, faux-American self-reliance, ethically responsive adults and young people have to activate their own hands and hearts in order to create the change they want to see in the world. 
    I believe the location for this work to start is in schools.

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