Student data is rich with insights. It’s no secret education is now embarking on its own transformational data journey — one where it now has the capabilities to collect and analyze data at scale with one goal in mind: achieve the best student outcomes possible.
We already know that formative assessments provide a valuable window into student progress and lesson structure.
Notes from other teachers and past projects can be used to better understand each student’s learning style.
Attendance records and grades can be instrumental in identifying performance issues or personal problems.
All of the data described above involves observation. The student does not directly participate in shaping their educational journey. And although the insights generated from this data are still invaluable to school districts, they do not paint a complete picture of each student.
To put it another way, they examine the behavior of a student without listening to what that student has to say — they fail to give students a voice, and in so doing ignore one of the most valuable sources of student data in the classroom: students themselves.
In this article, we’re going to show you how you can use the voice of your students to achieve the best outcomes possible for students, teachers, and staff.
What Is a Student’s Voice?
A student’s voice is more than their thoughts on an upcoming exam or their opinion on a lesson plan. It’s their interests, hobbies, and passions. It’s their cultural background, values, and beliefs. It’s every characteristic that makes each individual student unique, expressed directly by the student themself.
By allowing students to engage and reflect — and more importantly, listening when they do — teachers can truly personalize the learning experience, and drive better outcomes in the process.
The Benefits of Giving Students a Voice
Inclusivity in the Classroom
Inclusive learning is understandably front of mind for K-12 educators, yet school districts frequently fail in their attempts to foster diversity. The problem isn’t that inclusivity is difficult. It’s that many initiatives overlook the perspective of their intended benefactors.
Even as young as six years old, students are beginning to form their own identities. They’ve begun to explore their culture and gender. More importantly, they have realized that their perspective is unique, even if they aren’t entirely certain why.
By engaging each student, one creates a more equitable, responsive classroom that allows students to both immerse themselves in their own experiences and understand the experiences of others.
A Deeper Cultural Understanding
Giving both students and their families a voice benefits teachers, as well. By providing everyone with opportunities to speak openly and authentically, a teacher gains a deeper understanding of each student’s unique cultural, economic, and geographic circumstances. First and foremost, this gives students and parents the opportunity to directly influence everything from lesson planning to in-classroom instruction and management.
Moreover, teachers can nurture an appreciation of experiences outside their own, ultimately becoming better educators.
Building Positive Relationships
Mutual trust and respect are the cornerstones of a successful student-teacher relationship. A student that feels overlooked, unheard, or undervalued usually lacks both. Older students especially may begin to feel resentful, believing that their educators are detached and out of touch.
Consequently, a student who feels heard and valued will forge a stronger relationship with their teachers and be more willing to listen to input and advice in turn.
Unless it is specifically architected to do so, even the most comprehensive student information system doesn’t provide a complete window into each student’s emotional and mental state. Interpersonal problems often cannot be identified by raw data alone. Bullying amongst students is often difficult to identify unless one specifically looks for it.
Student involvement is crucial in bullying prevention. It can also help school boards determine the need for professional intervention in situations that involve mental illness or trouble at home.
Insight Beyond Observation
The voice of a student provides a level of insight into a school’s programs and systems that observational data simply cannot match. Rather than attempting to determine success through analytics, educators can gather input form people who’ve actually experienced the classroom. This provides a more complete picture of what’s going wrong, what’s working, and where improvements can be made.
Engagement, Autonomy, and Personal Development
Listening to student voices is about more than insight — it’s about agency. By allowing students to influence the course of their own education, you give them a sense of ownership. Rather than passengers on someone else’s journey, they are their own navigators, and are more invested in it.
To put it another way, they care more about their education because they actually feel as though it’s theirs, which has several notable impacts:
- Students can learn at their own pace and in their own way, helping them build confidence and self-worth.
- Students develop better interpersonal skills through more supportive and trusting relationships.
- Students feel a deeper sense of belonging and feel safe enough to truly express themselves.
How to Promote Student Voice in the classroom
When students feel heard, outcomes improve for both teachers and students — it’s a reciprocal relationship. Technology, such as Edsembli’s planned check-in tool for students, will allow them to reflect and share their feelings with a teacher, anytime they want.
This provides teachers with a powerful tool that allows them to gauge student sentiment at any time during a lesson, the year, or a specific part of the curriculum. But more importantly, it gives students a powerful tool to share their voice without fear for repercussions.
With Edsembli check-in, teachers will have the foundation needed for growth. And by integrating such tools with SIS or HRP systems, the insights gleaned from student voices can be orchestrated and stored with other student data, creating a whole new depth of insights.
Before implementing such technology, however, educators must first change their own practices. They need to move away from the traditional approach to learning that positions a teacher as the sole authority in the classroom. To accomplish this, teachers must take several steps:
- Collaborate with students to establish clear norms and expectations in the classroom. Emphasize personal growth and development over memorization.
- Ask questions. How does each student prefer to learn? What topics are most interesting to them? How do they prefer to identify?
- Establish multiple channels through which students and families can share their thoughts, opinions, and perspectives with the school. Most importantly, students should have multiple opportunities to provide feedback about lessons.
- Ensure students have frequent opportunities to reflect, introspect, and build up their identity.
- Clearly explain how each student’s input is being used to inform educational practices moving forward. Show them that you’re doing more than listening; you’re putting their ideas to work.
- Teach critical thinking and problem solving, and work alongside each student to establish both short and long-term goals.
- Focus on transparency and accountability. Never leave students in the dark about the reasoning behind a decision or blindside them with an unexpected change.
- Encourage active participation and collaboration in the classroom, and minimize passive learning.
- Make an effort to understand each student’s culture and background, up to and including performing independent research.
- Host community gatherings to orient families with impending changes in the classroom.
Give Your Students a Voice With Edsembli
Ensuring students feel heard is only the first step. You need a means of analyzing that data and aligning it with your other insights. And that’s where Edsembli comes in.
With decades of experience in K-12 education, we understand both your needs and the needs of your students. We’ve built our solutions portfolio with that in mind, with intuitive interfaces, a powerful API, and seamless integration with a diverse partner ecosystem.
Book a demo or contact sales to learn more.