Student Voice Exchanges can be incredibly impactful, and there are several important considerations to keep in mind prior to and as you're running the exchange. This article covers the why and when of engaging with students but we strongly recommend you also review our best practices for designing and facilitating student Exchanges before launching your student Exchange.
Why engage with students?
Because it can’t be about them, without them.
As teachers and education leaders strive to create a dynamic and valuable educational experience for all students, the need for a student-centered approach is becoming more and more apparent.
Student voice is important for empowering and engaging students. Students need support to learn how to use their voice —- whether it is to advocate for themselves, express their opinions, or support one another. It helps to make students feel personally invested in their social, emotional and learning environment and gives them a role in shaping and creating it rather than it being simply delivered to them.
Capturing students’ voices and perspectives can be a powerful tool in achieving positive outcomes for school districts, but broad representation can be difficult to accomplish.
“There can be a tokenism around student voice that limits the process. Having a group of high-performing students come and talk to the board about an issue doesn’t really give you the best possible, representative understanding of your student population.”
– Dr. David Keohane, Superintendent of Schools, Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools
Thoughtexchange provides school and district leaders with a way to meaningfully engage students about their experiences, concerns, and priorities. It is important to consider when and how to engage with students to get the full benefit of their perspective.
Why? Let’s hear from a couple of our partners to understand their reason for bringing student voices into key conversations:
Learn how Wade Stanford, Superintendent at Westwood Independent School District uses ThoughtExchange to empower student voice.
Empowering Student Voices with ThoughtExchange
When to engage with students
The best time to include students in your exchanges is when their perspectives can have a meaningful impact on the decision-making process.
Here are some recommendations and example questions for engaging students about the issues that matter most to them:
- Student Values - Broad engagement to inform district and school decisions about budget allocations, program opportunities, and extracurricular activities.
- Question: What would improve your learning experience at school?
- Student Event Planning - Empowering and supporting students to collaboratively plan activities such as spirit days, homecoming, and graduation.
- Question: What are some things you would like us to think about when planning our graduation activities?
- Leadership Development - Building ownership and leadership in students, e.g. exchanges related to planning student senate projects and providing social-emotional support for peers.
- Question: What are some important things we can do together to support the well-being of yourself and other students at school?
- Active Engagement in Learning - Supporting broader involvement in sensitive or challenging classroom discussions, e.g. providing a platform for assisting with senior capstone project research.
- Question: After reading about __________ , what are your thoughts or questions about how we view __________ (race, gender, etc.) in our school and society?
- Student Wellness and Mental Health - Supporting a culture of respect and inclusion.
- Question: What are some important things we could do to help make our school feel more welcoming?