Highly effective teachers meet their students where they are in the classroom. They set high expectations and work with the students to create a path of success. But how can teachers truly know where students are if they only use assessment data? Meeting students where there are means knowing where they stand academically, but also understanding them in a cultural context. This concept is supported by Lev Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory, which explains that children learn best through social, cultural, and historical interactions. One meaningful approach to knowing who the students are and what they need is student voice.
Here are some strategies to elicit student voice to help personalize learning:
Open Discussion - Allow the students time to talk about relevant topics to them. This can happen as an opening to class which can serve as an SEL check-in or you may want to end class with a discussion to let the students vent frustrations, share successes, or just speak their minds in a safe space.
Surveys - Students will not always feel comfortable speaking out in the classroom. Surveys are a great way to ascertain information such as their preferred pronouns, their spoken language at home, family dynamics that may play a role in their living situation, etc.
Student-led conferences - Feedback is an essential part of the learning process that can be really effective if it is collaborative. Let the students take the lead by explaining their thought process, highlighting their strengths, and working with you to identify areas of improvement and set goals.
Authentic project-based learning - Learning can be meaningful when students have a chance to design projects that directly impact them. Give students an opportunity to explore project ideas that focus on a problem or topic that is relevant to them.
Each of these strategies opens the line of communication between teachers and students. In doing so, teachers are not only able to develop more personalized learning approaches for students, but they are also fostering positive relationships. Each strategy indicates to the students that their teachers want to hear from them and value what they say. These student voice approaches show students that teachers respect them and view them as partners in their education.