Student voice is a contested and unstable concept. It is also central to this research project and clarity about ‘student voice’ is essential to the effectiveness of communication about this proposal. Therefore, information about how voice is theorised and the definition intended in this project is provided here.
Extensive literature theorises voice; what is included, what is not and why. ‘Student voice’ and ‘student agency’ are often used interchangeably in teacher discourse and in research literature (Mayes et al., 2017; Payne, 2015). Other terms used in this discussion include: pupil voice (Arnot & Reay, 2007; Czerniawski, 2012; Rudduck, 2005; Thomson & Gunter, 2006), pupil power (Whitty & Wisby, 2007), being heard (McInerney, 2009; Mitra & Gross, 2009; Payne, 2015; Quinn & Owen, 2016), learner voice (Cook‐Sather, 2016; Feu, Serra, Canimas, Làzaro, & Simó-Gil, 2017; Mitra, 2006), pedagogic voice (Baroutsis, McGregor, & Mills, 2016; Gidley, 2016; Leach & Crisp, 2016), epistemological empowerment (Oldfather, 1995), and learner controlled or initiated teaching (Czerniawski, 2012).
Across the literature, ‘voice’ is attached to a range of definitions, and is frequently tied to or used interchangeably with ‘dialogue’ (Taylor & Robinson, 2009), or positioned as an opportunity for students to speak about their experiences at school (McIntyre, Pedder, & Rudduck, 2005; Mitra, 2004) or their wellbeing, learning and environment (Simmons, Graham, & Thomas, 2015; Wood, 2010).
Generally, use of the term ‘student voice’ encompasses ‘dialogue’ about school life and wellbeing, and includes agency in the learning process for all students.
The term voice is used throughout this proposal, understanding that there is a continuum of engagement from consultative to activism (See separate info sheet).
`Students actively involved in their own and others’ learning to achieve greater engagement, ownership, inclusion and improved learning outcomes.’
The term is used in this project with an agentive and active participatory intent, at the transformational end of this continuum. Student voice is seen as a social justice issue. It is expected that disengaged and disenfranchised students will have opportunities to re-engage with schooling and take ownership of the school, their classrooms and most importantly their learning, when they have genuine voice opportunities.