10 SES 07 D, Pupil Interests and Teacher Education
Listening to the multiplicity students’ voices helps teachers to tune their teaching and organisational practices to the social and cognitive needs of students and helps students to have a sense of ownership of their learning and of the school of which they are part. The paper draws on three studies of student voices carried out in England and Lebanon in Primary and Secondary schools between 2006 and 2011 that investigated students’ views of teaching, learning and their school as an organisation.
Students are experienced participant observers of teachers, teaching and schools (Riley and Rustique-Forrester, 2002) who can articulate clearly their views on teachers and teaching (Nabhani, Busher and Bahous, 2012) that bear a strong similarity for example, to the work of Kyriacou (2007) on successful classroom practice. However, the concept of student voice is problematic. Some researchers hold that it can only be articulated when teachers authorise it and usually in ways that curtail any critical discussion of prevailing conditions (Ruddock, 2006). Others assume that student voice is monolingual (Robinson and Taylor, 2007), and that students should only be listened to when they speak in the ways expected of subordinates by ruling elites (Spivak in Morton, 2002), in the case of schools, the teachers. This denies the multi-faceted nature of student perspectives (Rubin and Silva, 2003) that arise from the intersectionality of gender, social status, ethnicity and faith (Reay, 2006) that shape how students construct their perspectives: there is not one student voice but many.
Listening to student voices helps teachers to reflect more critically on their practices (McIntyre, et al., 2005) to improve the quality of teaching and learning and meet students’ educational needs more successfully (Fielding, 2004). Further, involving students directly in school decision-making about issues of immediate relevance to their own lives, such as teaching, learning and school organisation, helps to develop respectful cultures in schools (Sebba and Robinson, 2011) and raises students general levels of motivation and productivity (Potter, 2002).
Accessing students’ perspectives used to be encouraged by central government in England to promote personalised learning. It acknowledged students have a right to be heard in the evaluation of schools (Troman et al., 2007) and to influence the shaping of their own learning (Fielding, 2004). It also gives them a sense of ownership of the learning and institutional process of which they are part (Potter, 2002, Sebba and Robinson, 2011), helping to develop a more inclusive school environment and democratising schooling (Flutter and Rudduck, 2004). It recognises that students are citizens, not merely citizens in preparation, whose rights should be respected under the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (Sebba and Robinson, 2011).
Within the European Union, the development of citizenship by member states is recognised as crucial to the construction of society (Osler and Starkey, 1999). However, there are some distinct national differences in understandings of citizenship, with an emphasis in England on citizens’ duties and responsibilities but on citizen rights (e.g. the right to travel, or to work) in France and Spain (Edye, 2003). However, in England it is difficult to promote a genuinely democratic dialogue in schools (Arnot and Reay 2007) because state schools try to optimise their own performance within the disciplinary framework of performative education policy (Troman, et al., 2007). Consequently, student ‘consultation’ may be tokenistic (Byrom et al, 2007) with school council agendas constrained by the views of senior staff (Fielding, 2004) to discussing only matters considered safe for subordinates.
Arnot, M. and Reay, D. (2007) A sociology of pedagogic voice: Power, inequality and pupil consultation. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 28 (3) 311–25. Byrom, T. Thomson, P. and Gates, P. (2007) ‘My school has been quite pushy about the Oxbridge thing’: voice and choice of higher education Improving Schools 10 (1) 29–40 Edye, D. (2003) Attitudes towards European Union Citizenship, in C. Roland-Levy & A. Ross (Eds) Political Learning and Citizenship in Europe. Stoke-on-Trent: Trentham Books. Fielding, M. (2004) Transformative approaches to student voice: Theoretical underpinnings, recalcitrant realities, British Educational Research Journal, 30 (2) 295 - 310 Flutter, J. and Rudduck, J. (2004) How to improve your school: Giving pupils a voice, London: Continuum Books Kyriacou, C. (2007) Essential Teaching Skills, Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes Osler, A. and Starkey, H. (1999) Rights, Identities and Inclusion: European action programmes as political education, Oxford Review of Education, 25(1/2), 199-215 McIntyre, D., Pedder, D., and Rudduck, J. (2005) Pupil voice: comfortable and uncomfortable learnings for teachers. Research Papers in Education, 20, 149-168. Morton, S. (2003) Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak London: Routledge Nabhani, M., Busher, H. and Bahous, R. (2012) Cultures of engagement in challenging circumstances: Four Lebanese Primary Schools in urban Beirut, School Leadership and Management, 32 (1) 37-55 Potter, J. (2002) Active Citizenship in schools, London: Kogan Page. Reay, D. (2006) ‘I’m not seen as one of the clever children’: Consulting primary pupils about the social conditions of learning. Educational Review 58 (2) 131–43. Riley, K and Rustique-Forrester, E (2002) Working with Disaffected Students: Why students lose interest in school and what we can do about it, London: Paul Chapman Publishing Robinson, C. and Taylor, C. (2007) Theorizing student voice: values and perspectives Improving Schools; 10 (5) 5–17 Rubin, B.C., and E.M. Silva. (2003) Critical voices in school reform: Students living throughchange. London: Routledge Falmer Ruddock, J. (2006) The past, the papers and the project. Educational Review 58 (2) 131–43 Sebba, J. and Robinson, C. (2011) Evaluation of UNICEF UK’S Rights Respecting Schools Award paper presented to British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, Institute of Education, University of London, London UK, 7-9 Sept 2011 Troman, G., Jeffrey, B. and Raggl, A. (2007) Creativity and performativity policies in primary school cultures. Journal of Education Policy, 22 (5) 549-72.
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