Student voice as a social justice issue

Eminent education researcher speaks at UVM

student voice as a social justice issue
Emily Nelson, Eastern Institute of Technology Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

Visiting New Zealand researcher Emily Nelson PhD spoke this past week to Vermont educators about how student voice — the concept that students need an active role in determining the course of their education — is a social justice issue and a fundamental right of students everywhere.

“When we talk about ‘students’,” Dr Nelson told the crowd, “what we really mean is ‘humans in a student role in a compulsory setting.'”

Dr Nelson spoke about how student voice as a concept has evolved from treating students as “consultants” to treating them as “participants” in the educational process, through to how they are now, in some classrooms, considered “partners”. But, she stressed, there is still a long way to go. 

Dr Nelson pointed out that the United Nations recognizes the right of children to be heard, and that makes respecting students’ views a legal obligation within education systems.

Lecture attendees had the option of scanning a QR code to access a padlet, shown below, to which they added their ideas for how to incorporate student voice more authentically in their work. The collected ideas then formed rich fodder for a thought-provoking discussion on how Dr Nelson’s ideas about continuing to improve and revolutionize student voice in the classroom could be continued.

Dr Nelson is currently a senior lecturer in the School of Education at the Eastern Institute of Technology in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. According to the Eastern Institute of Technology, for her PhD thesis at The University of Waikato, entitled, ‘Is this student voice?’ Students and teachers renegotiate power through governance partnerships in the classroom, Dr Nelson conducted a three-cycle action research model, working with three teachers and their year 7 and 8 students at a New Zealand intermediate school.

Dr Nelson’s presentation slides appear below. You can follow her on twitter at @emi40.

Audrey Homan

Audrey Homan is a Vermont-based digital media producer, and producer of The 21st Century Classroom podcast. She's worked in non-profit communications for more than a decade, and in her spare time writes tiny video games and mucks about with augmented reality and arduinos, ably assisted by five dogs. Interviewing students and yelling in PHP are the best parts of her job.

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