Respecting and Responding to Student Voice

My students have been at school for two months now and it is really important to me that I understand how it has been going for them. Ensuring my students have opportunities to share their honest thoughts and feelings about school and me plays a huge part in respecting and supporting both their agency and their humanness for the time they spend in my care.

form 1

This year I structured my questions around the qualities of establishing an inclusive classroom that I learned from an IB training.

form 2forms 3

I also included questions to find out what I have been doing well and what I can do to improve.

form 4

Here is a link to a copy of that form if you are interested in seeing it.

It’s always hard to put yourself out there and ask these types of questions. I get nervous every time I read their responses. But I also believe I get better every time I read their responses. So those temporary moments of a bruised ego are worth it because they lead to my growth both as a professional, and as a person.

So in the spirit of vulnerability and shared reflection, here is what I learned and the action I plan to take:

IMG_6459Looking at the quantitative data, I have built some professional goals that I will post in the classroom for students, parents and colleagues to see. I will invite constant feedback from my community to help me work towards these goals.


Looking at the qualitative data, I will reach out to specific students to find out more. I will invite the 6 students who said they didn’t feel challenged to have a focus group with me so I can dig a little deeper to discover what they need. I will invite the student who didn’t feel listened to or understood to have a one-on-one conference with me to hopefully help us get to know each other better. I will ask the 3 students who do not feel safe what changes we could make to our classroom to help them feel more safe.

I also plan to share this data and my action plan with the parent community. I think they deserve to be included in this process, to know how students are feeling about school as well as the steps I plan to take to address some of their concerns.

How do you encourage and respond to student voice?

What do you ask your students to help you grow as a teacher?

5 thoughts on “Respecting and Responding to Student Voice

  1. Cat Peterson September 30, 2017 / 6:32 am

    Hi Taryn,

    I just wanna to say a big congratulations and thanks for sharing this information with the wider educational community. It takes more than courage to do so, it’s about integrity and purpose, which is clearly shown in this blog post as you disclose rather ‘intimate’ information about your students and your practice.
    I’ve also signed up for the #observeme movement recently and have posted a sign outside my classroom door welcoming my peers to provide me with constructive feedback, as I’m trying to get stronger at promoting student agency in my EY classroom. I’ll be sure to use the last two questions you’ve put forward on this post as a continuation of this exciting journey!


    • tbondclegg September 30, 2017 / 6:35 am

      Hi Cat,
      Thanks for the positive feedback. I truly believe it is so important and powerful for us to be open and vulnerable – leads to true transformational growth! Good luck on your journey to get stronger at promoting agency in your EY classroom. I hope the last two questions provide useful insights. 🙂


  2. L. McCall September 30, 2017 / 9:01 am

    Hi Taryn,
    I am loving following along with your journey this year (and last year) and I think it’s wonderful that you are sharing this experience with others hoping to learn alongside you. Starting my master’s degree this year, and learning about that “little r” research, while witnessing the evolution of your own action research design is just awesome. So thank you for being vulnerable.
    I’m curious about what classroom definitions you’ve built with your students. I see that you defined “learning” together, but what about something like “respect” or “safety”? The discrepancy between everyone feeling cared for and respected (amazing job!), but not everyone feeling safe, is an interesting one to me. I think the follow-up interviews with those students will be enlightening!


  3. Paula Baxter October 1, 2017 / 5:18 am

    Hats off to you, Taryn – a very courageous post in which you have laid out any teacher’s biggest area of vulnerability ~ what our kids think of us. The questions that you used to collect this data were thoughtful, and hence the students’ responses insightful. It resonated with me all the more having just returned from two days of PD with Stronge Associates, one day of which focussed on “Teacher Evaluation that Works : Focusing on Teacher Success.”

    We spent time looking at all the channels through which we collect data to support teacher growth. There was hot debate around whether we should include parent and student survey data in the process. The research points to the parent data being pretty worthless as it is their perception based purely on their child’s perception which generally only extends as far as homework and a teacher’s responsiveness (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation 2010, Ferguson 2010, Wilkerson et al 2000). Whereas, students are there 100% of the time (which is obviously a lot more than any administrator can claim!). The research shows that children as young as six years old can distinguish the difference between “my teacher likes me” and “my teacher is effective”.

    The facilitator (James Stronge) shared a slide with these points:

    Student Surveys:
    – Provide students’ perceptions of how teacher is performing – direct knowledge of classroom practice
    – Assist teachers in setting goals for continuous improvement (formative assessment)
    – Age considerations for survey
    – Surveys are anonymous
    – Actual responses seen only by individual teacher
    – Survey summary is included in document log (my note: this refers to teacher’s own log to document journey of own learning)

    As a group, we went on to talk about how once the data was collected, the teacher should use a few reflective questions to guide next steps, such as:
    When was the data collected ( my note: research shows that Nov. and Mar. are optimal)
    – What did students perceive as your major strengths?
    – What did students perceive as your major weaknesses
    – How can you use this information for continuous professional growth?

    After you have looked at that, Stronge recommends the following questions:
    — Is the information your students provided about you accurate?
    — If you agree that the information is accurate, are you satisfied with the students perceptions about you?
    — If you agree that the information is inaccurate, do you know why your students have these perceptions?
    — Do you need to make changes to change your students’ perceptions?
    — If you think the changes are justified, consider using the student data to set a personal or instructional goal for improvement.

    Taryn, you impressively have followed each of theses steps. I am impressed by your approach to addressing your own professional growth in light of this data, both the ways in which you intend to better meet your students’ needs and also asking your colleagues to focus on the same points when they observe you. That takes our peer-to-peer walkthroughs to the next level when we ask for this type of focussed feedback.

    Again, thanks for sharing this with your global network.


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