AbstractsEducation Research & Administration

Student voice : empowerment, engagement, efficacy in New Zealand schools

by Helen Parry

Institution: Unitec New Zealand
Year: 2014
Keywords: primary education, student voice, curriculum design, locus of control, Auckland; 130105 Primary Education (excl. Māori)
Record ID: 1316487
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10652/2616


This study was carried out to examine student voice initiatives in schools; more specifically, the successes and challenges that leaders and teachers have faced when implementing student voice strategies. ‘Student voice’ has many meanings, but for the purpose of this study student voice refers to the ideas, views and perspectives voiced by students that are listened to by teachers and factored into learning opportunities both in the classroom and school-wide. A qualitative research methodology was used to explore and examine the notion of ‘student voice’ in two primary schools in Auckland, New Zealand. One-to-one interviews were carried out with four school leaders and two focus group discussions with teachers and two focus group discussions with students from two schools. The data collected were analysed in order to identify themes and commonalities across the two schools. Despite the variability of teachers’ and students’ understanding of student voice, ‘Assessment for Learning’ practices and student leadership roles were identified as the predominant features of student voice. Having a clear vision and values was seen by both schools as vital to successful student voice initiatives as was the belief that student voice must be led. Relationships were seen by both schools as an important component of student voice practice, and the data provided evidence that this philosophy was being upheld in both schools to various degrees. The challenges of implementing student voice strategies related to the sharing of control between the teacher and student with evidence of tokenism – there was little curriculum decision-making by students and the locus of control remained firmly held by the teacher. The recommendations from this study have implications for schools in terms of: developing teacher’s pedagogical knowledge and understanding of student voice; reducing tokenism; increasing student decision-making; changing the locus of control, and changing the pre-conditioning of students to enable them to have a voice.