Student Voice

Student voice is the term used to embody and characterize the specific behavior and distinct perspectives of young people across various learning institutions that focus primarily on education.  It empowers students and endows them with the ability to influence learning to integrate contexts policies, principles and programs.

Student voice represents the individual as well as the collective outlook and attitude of young people within the framework of education. It has been regarded in schools as both a figurative practice and as a practical and utilitarian concern.

Student voice work is based on the following principles:

  • Young people have distinct viewpoints when it comes to the concept of education which includes schooling, teaching and learning.
  • Their perspectives command not only the attention but also the understanding and responses of adults.
  • They ought to be given active participation in shaping their education.

A number of typologies characterize the different practices that fall within the context of student voice. One determines and establishes the multiple roles for students in all respects of the education system, such as education planning, research, teaching, analysis, decision-making and advocacy.

Administrative Approaches

The presence of student voice is viewed as crucial to the educational process dating back at least to the time of John Dewey, or even earlier. Dewey is renowned for his publications concerning education and his ideas have been influential to educational reform. It was in 1916 when he started writing extensively about the need of engaging student perspectives and experience in the curriculum of schools. His support for student voice was epitomized by this statement:

The essence of the demand for freedom is the need of conditions which will enable an individual to make his own special contribution to a group interest, and to partake of its activities in such ways that social guidance shall be a matter of his own mental attitude, and not a mere authoritative dictation of his acts.”

Student voice is currently seeing a resurgence of importance as it has been increasingly identified by a growing body of literature as a significant factor throughout the educational process. Specific areas where advocates are actively pushing for the acknowledgment of student voice include curriculum design and teaching methods, Scholastic leadership and educational reform activities.

Curricular Approaches

There are certain types of activities that can particularly incorporate student voice; such activities include school planning, teaching, research, decision-making, learning and instructional analysis, educational advocacy, and student advisories for school authorities.

Service Learning

The main objective of service learning is to actively engage student voice, which normally aims to relate learning objectives withcommunity service opportunities. Student voice is likewise present in student leadership programs, practical education activities, and other forms of student-centered learning activities.

Students as Education Decision-Makers

The main concept behind engaging students as educational decision-makers is to teach young people to be responsible for their education by methodically engaging them in making the right choices about the education system – from what affects individual students, to what affects the entire student body, and what affects the school system as a whole.

The essential duties of school authorities include school building design, teacher hiring, selecting the appropriate curriculum, calendar year planning, among others. Such duties are currently regarded as avenues for student voice. Today, students are taking part in boards of education at all levels. There are education agencies that accept students as staff in programs where they are allowed to make decisions regarding school assessment, grant making, and other areas. Students also latch on decision-making by constituting and implementing codes of conduct and in personal decision-making, such as deciding whether to attend school, what course to pursue and which classes to choose.


Student voice is now widely regarded as a key to a successful school reform, as researchers, educational institutions, and academic support organizations across the globe increasingly press for the involvement of students in the reform process after recognizing student voice as a crucial element of student engagement.


Critical educators including Henry GirouxPaulo Freire and Gloria Jean Watkins have expressed concern about the singular idea of a student voice. An expert even wrote about the apparent over-simplification, stating that: “It is not enough to simply listen to student voice. Educators have an ethical imperative to do something with students, and that is why meaningful student involvement is vital to school improvement.”

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