Student Voice

5-Minute Film Festival: Student Voice and Choice

When students feel that their opinions and ideas are valued they’re more engaged with their education. Watch these seven videos for ideas on how to give your students more agency in school.

April 22, 2016
Photo credit: Charles Tsai

What does it mean when people talk about "student voice and choice" in education? Educators are always thinking on how best to engage the young people we work with; perhaps one way to capture their attention is right under our noses. If students feel that that their opinions and ideas are heard and valued by their peers and teachers, they're much more likely to be engaged with their education. These 7 videos offer up strategies for giving your students more agency in their lessons and day-to-day classroom life.

Video Playlist: Student Voice and Choice

Watch the first video below, or watch the whole playlist on YouTube.

  1. Student Voice (1:10)

    If you're completely new to the idea of student voice, Imagine Education has a good primer on the overall concept, and the 4 major steps toward making student voice work.

  2. Student Voice and Choice: At Their Own Pace (2:21)

    Yes, you can give students agency in their education as early as elementary school! See how James H. Bean Elementary School in Maine works to empower its younger students through flexible schedules and self-paced learning. This is a great example of how student choice can work at a school-wide level. 

  3. The Necessity of Student Voice (9:26)

    Don't just take our word for it -- listen to a student's own words. In this fantastic TED-x talk, Catherine Zhang, a high school junior, makes a compelling case for the benefits and even the necessity of involving students in important school decisions.

  4. Student Councils and Student Voice (2:12)

    It's very likely that you already have an effective, established vehicle for student voice at your school: the student council. In this video, current student council members outline the ways student councils can make sure all student voices are being represented in council decisions.

  5. If Students Designed Their Own Schools (14:25)

    This excellent video by Charles Tsai profiles an experimental program at a Maryland high school that takes student agency to an ambitious conclusion. During a semester-long program, students design their own curriculum, act as teachers to each other, and even grade themselves.

  6. Russ Quaglia - Student Voice (4:30)

    Academic Russ Quaglia advocates for student agency through his nonprofit organization QISA, and here he talks about his personal philosophy of student voice, including the idea that "every student has something to teach us." 

  7. Hackschooling Makes Me Happy (11:13)

    You've probably seen this brilliant TED talk before, as it was widely shared on social media at its release, but it's worth highlighting again. Logan, a bright, articulate teen, outlines how homeschooling has worked for him, and in doing so, makes the case for education that can take place anywhere and anytime.

More Resources on Harnessing Student Voice

Perhaps you still have questions about student voice and choice. How can educators empower students to take ownership of their education while still maintaining the direction of the lesson? Is there ever such a thing as too much student agency? There are so many different ways to move the needle on student voice big or small, and every little bit helps. Check out these resources for ways to get started!

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