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Developing student voice

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Matakohe School have been investigating ways to further develop student voice to encourage self-directed, empowered learners. A large part of their success has come from teachers stepping back and allowing students to take the direction, ask questions, and share their thinking. 

Professional learning conversations

These questions and suggested actions encourage you to reflect on your own school context.

Participating and contributing

The New Zealand Curriculum (p15) states:

"Students who participate and contribute in communities have a sense of belonging and the confidence to participate within new contexts. They understand the importance of balancing rights, roles, and responsibilities and of contributing to the quality and sustainability of social, cultural, physical, and economic environments."

  • How does the concept of child centred learning underpin your practice?
  • How can you involve students more in reviewing teaching and learning?
  • In what ways could you support your teachers to step back to let students participate and contribute in a meaningful way?

You might like ...

NZC resource bank – student voice
Find resources and information to encourage student voice.

Transcript

Student voice has been a huge growth within the school, and it has I think... probably teachers’ confidence to let go was a major change - but it’s really had a big effect on how all the programmes run within the school.

The whole process has just taken that whole teacher dominance away from the classroom, putting the emphasis back on the child centred learning. The kids are driving their learning. They’re telling me what needs to be happening in the classroom and we’re running with that, and it’s just... the rewards of it are so great. The whole problem with our food scraps, that’s how the pigs came about, was because they said, “Oh we’ve got no scrap bin”. Instead of me saying, “Well here’s what we can do,” I said, “Well what do you think we should do?” So we brainstormed and came up with a whole list of ideas. So it escalated that we’d get pigs, then what do we need to build a pigsty with? What do pigs need to live? So we had working bees, and got materials from local companies and donated stuff. On Wednesday we’ve got the local vet coming in who is going to give us a talk about our pig care - what we need to make them happy and safe in their environment. So it just escalates from a simple question.

One of the things that I celebrate about it is the extent to which it empowers the children. I feel that having children in a range of age and development [stages]... something that our children get at kindergarten is that they really have that child's voice and most of what they do is child initiated. The way the old curriculum was they would come to school and a lot of that would be cut off. They would be a little bit lost [and] it would be quite a hard transition. With the new curriculum and the way that it’s been worked into the school they now transition smoothly from kindergarten into primary school, and that’s evident in what we see from our youngest.

I think a lot of it is the fact that I’m stepping back. I’m allowing the kids to take the direction. I’m questioning a lot more and basically I’m only stepping in when I need to. I think a lot of it is coming from the fact that we’re getting far better at communicating and sharing our thinking. Therefore I can step back and just take on a guidance role and just pose questions if I need to.

Because it’s real life, it’s their choice. Another thing they came up with is they want to learn about what they want to learn about. So they're asking if they can learn about the things they want to learn about, and this is how they’ve come up with this idea of passion time. They want to have half an hour a day learning about what they want to learn about. They really are motivated when it’s their choice.

I think one of the things that to me is really important is that this whole process has given our children a real sense of empowerment, which I think can only set them up well for the future. Right throughout the whole process they now feel at school that their voice is relevant and heard and is just as important as the teacher’s voice, which is huge as a parent to see that pride in what’s happening at school through the children.

I think there’s been huge shifts by the staff and the students and our community, like the teachers’ practice has really changed. It’s taken it away from teacher leadership and to more student ownership.

I’ll admit there were times when I thought, “We’re never going to get there!”, and it has been a long road but it’s been worth it. I enjoy my teaching a lot more now.  I’m probably not doing as much in the control sense in the classroom but I’m getting a lot more rewards.


Published on: 28 Oct 2013


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