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Tawa Intermediate – Student voice

Teachers from Tawa Intermediate asked their 21st century learners what they want from their 21st century school.

Student voice

What we want from our teacher.

Have you ever wondered what’s going through the minds of the students sitting in front of you each day in your classroom?

At Tawa Intermediate they decided to find out what it was that 21st century learners wanted from their school. Two Tawa Intermediate teachers and a small group of students planned an inquiry based on the question 'What goes through the minds of young learners as they prepare for an unknown future?' They recorded their findings on a wiki called Kidspeak.

They discovered that students wanted personal space, motivation, fewer instructions, breaks, choice in what they learn, choice of where to work, hands on learning, and choice in when they do the work. They felt trapped by rules and felt that they could do a lot better if they were working when and where they felt comfortable.

Students listed the key findings they felt schools of the 21st century needed to focus on. As well as this, they explored:

  • ways to make schools places where boys don’t get into trouble and are engaged in learning
  • what goes through students’ minds as they prepare for the future
  • the bonuses of having opportunities to do their learning online.

The students’ inquiry discovered the answer to what works for learning. It’s choice! Choice about what, where and when they learn. One of the teachers involved in the inquiry carried out an investigation on the correlation between choice and engagement. The same teacher also interviewed some of the most disengaged students to see what they thought.

The final aspect of the inquiry was to investigate self-timetabling as a way of giving students choice and more control over their learning.

The associated lists of student and teacher needs were developed to support this process:

PDF icon. Tawa Intermediate - Student-teacher needs (PDF, 51 KB)

The teachers involved in the inquiry have set out to put their learning into practice. They now include regular breaks, hands on learning and making learning contexts relevant to real-life situations. One challenge the teachers face include balancing choice with the need for structure within their classrooms. It is also challenging to monitor how much learning is happening. They know, however, that listening to their students views about what helps them learn and what gets in the way of their learning is paramount to increasing engagement.

"We watched some YouTube videos showing kids having both positive and negative experiences while learning to ride a bike. The students recalled their own positive and negative learning experiences, discussed their learning needs with their parents, and identified what contributes to, and gets in the way of learning. In groups, the students collated their ideas and we wrote them positively as things they need from their teacher. I then responded with a list of needs I have if I am to be the teacher they want. The lists are displayed on the wall so that we can revisit them to see how we are going."

Student voice
The New Zealand Curriculum encourages schools to seek out and listen to the ideas of students, parents, whānau, and the wider community when designing their local curriculum. Tawa Intermediate School's decision to find out what and how their learners wanted to learn will help them to shape a local curriculum that is interesting and engaging for their students. 

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student voice

Updated on: 12 Feb 2020