Defining Best Practices for Student Voice

A comment on my post underlining the connection between pedagogy and best practices sparked my attention.  How can we define best practices if we assume them to be the be all and end all of well, effective classroom practices?  Made me think and consequently, led me to connect the above mentioned thoughts with an interview I heard on the radio.  Yes, I still listen to the radio.

While en route to run an errand, I tuned into a quick interview with a musician/music producer who is constantly pushing the limits of what music is no matter the genre.  To him, music should not be defined by genre and instead be defined by the changing attitude of the creator behind said music.  In essence, is the musician/producer trying to evolve and get better at their ‘practice’ and out due themselves through creative pathways?

This being said, then how can we redefine best practices in the classroom where student voice is concerned?  Is it solely through pedagogical practice, research, or word of my mouth?  If we only base our teaching practice on the fore mentioned , then how do students fit in?  They simply do not and that, my colleagues, is not how education should function.  So, my thoughts for best practice where student voice is concerned – we simply listen to our students.  Best Practices

A conversation with a colleague from another board not that long ago spoke of the need to let go of some buzzwords and “edubable” in favour of listening to our students.  In essence “start with the kids and ask them what they need, they may know” (M. Champagne, Personal Communication, June 14, 2015).   Within that same context, we often push technology on students, especially those on IEP’s, without actually carrying meaningful conversations as what they, the student, needs to help them improve their strengths while fostering their room for growth.

So, all this being said my educational friends, what does pedagogy/best practices really mean if we only intend to stick to what we think is best?  Perhaps we need to a rotisserie of sorts in our brains that circulates through ideas pending on how our students advocate for their learning needs; then again, how do we foster their voice in the first place?

The brain is going on this one…

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2 Responses to Defining Best Practices for Student Voice

  1. Kris Giere says:

    For me, best practices are two-fold: framing for the learning environment & people-centered practices that make me a better servant leader.

    First the traditional “best practices” that I use to frame my classroom practices. These include research on teacher to student ratios to guide class sizes, research on cognitive load to better understand how to avoid overwhelming my students with too much information, reading & learning about my discipline so that I am better informed about different approaches to my classroom goals that allow me to better differentiate my teaching style, and research that informs my teaching philosophy like growth mindset and positive psychology to help me promote the best in my students. These are what I think many teachers do and look for in best practices. My colleagues often spend much of their time trying to create the best learning environment that they can for their students. Most of these sorts of practices are flexible. They only time I would warn against best practices like this is if any of these practices become so rigid that they dehumanize the students, creating a one-size-fits-all factory feel.

    You might have noticed my use of the phrase “The best in my students” in the previous paragraph. Yes, I phrased it that way purposefully. I don’t believe that I create or even draw out the best from my students. I fully believe they already possess amazing strengths and it is my calling to help them grow in those strengths. This concept brings me to the latter half of my best practices definition: people-centered practices that make me a better servant leader. By focusing on my students strengths and leveraging both positive psychology and strengths-based pedagogy, I can not only engage, motivate, and empower my students, but I can also nurture authentic growth within each of them. This shift from tasks, lessons, and areas of improvement to uplifting and growing the strengths of my students has been a significant shift in my teaching style, the productivity in my classroom, and the quality of the work my students produce. I’ve found that when I care more about their growth as human beings, their ability to demonstrate what they know about the things they are passionate about, that my students flourish in ways that no other practice I have employed, read about, or witnessed has done. They grow authentically. All of this growth stems from a practice of serving my students by treating them as the resilient, strong, whole people they are. I don’t need to fix them for they aren’t broken. I simply need to serve their best interests by listening to their needs, seeing them for their strengths, and caring about them as a whole human being.

    The rest of my practices in the classroom are all subject to change based on what the students who occupy that room with me that day need most from me. Good pedagogy in my opinion isn’t a script; it’s an opportunity for community building. And community building can only be done through the creation of meaningful relationships.

    Long story long, as my wife says I tend to tell, best practices need to be guiding philosophies grounded in quality research and constantly adjusted to fit the students that currently occupy our classrooms while pedagogy should be responsive strength-based experiences that serve the needs of our students and articulated by our students.


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