A Structure for Student Voice

So after a brief departure from running our school-wide professional learning communities (PLC’s) with faculty and staff due to Covid, we are back this year with more exciting and engaging opportunities for all. We have structured our PLC format this year around the umbrella theme of AGENCY, and the research and deep inquiry projects that are underway across the school are definitely inspiring. It’s so important to have educators not only learning and growing together, but having some voice and choice in their professional development experiences as well, and I’m looking forward to our next session in a couple of weeks. I also cannot wait for the end of the year learning showcase where we get to benefit collectively from everyone’s hard work and passions, and reflect on how these groups have helped to enhance agency across all aspects of our school.
Our return to these PLC’s have got me thinking about how this particular learning structure could be adopted, adapted and applied to our students, and rolled out as a form of “student learning communities”, or SLC’s. I posted a version of this idea several years ago and I think it’s time to revisit and reshare, as I believe it deserves some significant thought for all schools who are thinking about ways for kids to take more ownership of their educational experience. 
All good schools that I know of are always trying to find creative ways to engage students in their learning experiences, and looking to implement structures which allow kids to drive their own learning and personal growth forward. These schools have also purposefully structured time for teachers and teacher teams to analyze and discuss individual student data, and to use this data as a foundation for a more personalized and differentiated approach to goal setting and curriculum design. But why not set up a situation where students get a chance to go through the same powerful process? 

I think it’s time to set up a structure that allows all students to collaborate together, every so often, to talk about their learning with their peers, to analyze their own feedback and assessment data, to talk about their strengths and weaknesses, to learn from each other, and to provide important feedback to their teacher or teachers about how they best learn. Once a cycle or once every week or two, students would get into their student learning community group (grade specific or subject specific, or ultimately, passion specific that isn’t tied to grade level bands or subject areas) and collaboratively reflect on their day to day experience of school. They would listen to each other talk about their successes, they would learn from each other, they would teach each other, they would talk about some struggles that they might be having, they would set goals and hold each other accountable, and when the trust has been developed, they could share their own assessment data and feedback from teachers to see how and where they might be able to improve. 
All of this would be documented and shared with the teacher as feedback for them, which would help the educator in the room to better plan a differentiated lesson, to better understand if a student needs some extension or some intervention, to get a much richer idea of what each individual student truly needs, and to receive feedback on their teaching too…a personalized insight from the people who we often forget to include in these conversations, the kids. Of course, during this SLC the teacher or teachers would walk around to each group and engage in the collaborative conversations, getting immediate feedback on how each lesson or unit is going, and checking for conceptual understanding. 

It shouldn’t be only focused on academics by the way, it would be a wonderful portal into each student’s social and emotional well being, both inside and outside of school. The students could be directed and encouraged to talk about relationships, their home life if they’re comfortable, their sense of belonging within the community, issues that they need support with, and how they feel about themselves as people and learners. These SLC’s would provide incredible insight into each student’s individual experience, and would help individual students, teachers and schools to dig deep into the personal perspective and feedback from the kids, giving weight and action to student voice and student agency across the school.

Anyway, PLC’s as we all know have been incredibly powerful in moving schools forward, so why not bring students into the mix? It seems so simple, doesn’t it? SLC’s might just be the perfect extension of the PLC model, and a way to get the most important voices into the conversation. It’s a structure that would absolutely bring kids into the learning conversation, and provide a mechanism for students to truly have a voice in their educational experience. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the Week…
Half the curriculum walks into the room when the students do – 
Darnell Fine

Related Articles – 
Edutopia – Student Voice Articles
Student Voice and Student Wellbeing
Bring Student Voice to the Forefront
Making a Student Voice Heard

Book Recommendations – 
Personalized Learning
ASCD – Learning Communities

Inspiring Videos – 
Teaching Kids Kindness
Kindness 101
10 Things That Made Us Smile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *