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Sunday / November 19

Student Voice: A Common Language

"If we want our students to be our partners in helping create better teaching and learning environments, we are going to need a common language that brings everyone closer to the school's goals."

“If we want our students to be our partners in helping create better teaching and learning environments, we are going to need a common language that brings everyone closer to the school’s goals.”

Slowly but surely it is being accepted that the voice of students is an integral component of every thing we do in schools.   From school improvement efforts, to creating more engaging classrooms, students have something to teach us!  Granted, it has taken us longer than it should have to figure that out.

One way to ensure student voice in school is to speak a common language.  When we work with students and staff around student aspirations , we use a language that is understandable.  Unlike education jargon and acronyms, we speak in a “common” language that is understood from the earliest of school age children to the most seasoned veteran.  Our work in school is guided by infusing 8 Conditions in all that we do.

  • Belonging means you don’t have to pretend to be someone else, and you can just be yourself.
  • Heroes inspire you to strive for your dreams; they give you that extra push you need to be successful.
  • Sense of Accomplishment is when you reach your goals; it’s when you are okay with a B or even a C+ as long as you know you did your best.
  • Fun & Excitement is when you enjoy yourself while learning; doing activities in school that show fun and respect can go together.
  • Curiosity & Creativity means being able to share your own ideas in class; you can ask “Why are things like this?”
  • Spirit of Adventure is being open-minded and realizing there are all kinds of things to learn, and just working with it no matter where you are.
  • Leadership & Responsibility means having a big role in what happens at school; you set the standard by doing the right thing.
  • Confidence to Take Action means just doing it! Take action! Knowing I can do this.

We are not sure 4th graders know what “differentiated instruction” is, or if a high school freshman knows whether or not his teachers are using a “culturally relevant pedagogy.” They probably think “frameworks” are ways to hang pictures on a wall and that “benchmarks” are when someone carves their name into those seats in the park. We adults can learn about and discuss intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation, or self-efficacy, or the pedagogical conditions that are malleable in the teaching-learning environment. But if we want our students to be our partners in helping create better teaching and learning environments, and have a voice that matters, we are going to need a common language that brings everyone closer to the school’s goals, whatever they are.

The simple fact is that students have a point of view that we adults do not. Being willfully ignorant of that perspective is not just to be deaf to those for whom school exists; it is to make oneself less effective as a decision-maker. As we begin another school year, let’s do so with ears and eyes wide open.

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Dr. Russell J. Quaglia is a globally recognized pioneer in the field of education, known for his unwavering dedication to student voice and aspirations. Dr. Quaglia has been described by news media as America’s foremost authority on the development and achievement of student voice and aspirations. His innovative work is evidenced by an extensive library of research-based publications, prominent international speaking appearances, and a successfully growing list of aspirations ventures.

Among these ventures, Dr. Quaglia authored the School Voice suite of surveys, including Student Voice, Teacher Voice, Parent Voice, and iKnow My Class. His recent book, Student Voice: The Instrument of Change published by Corwin is already receiving international acclaim.

In addition to founding and leading the Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations, Dr. Quaglia also founded and currently chairs the Aspirations Academies Trust, a sponsor of primary and secondary academies in England built upon his aspirations research. Most recently he has founded the Teacher Voice and Aspirations International Center, dedicated to amplifying the voice of teachers in order for them to realize their aspirations and reach their fullest potential.

Dr. Quaglia earned his bachelor’s degree at Assumption College, a masters degree in economics from Boston College, and master of education and doctorate degrees from Columbia University, specializing in the area of organizational theory and behavior. He has been awarded numerous honorary doctorates in humanitarian services for his dedication to students. Dr. Quaglia’s work has also led him to serve on several national and international committees, reflecting his passion for ensuring that students’ and teacehers’ voices are always heard, honored, and acted upon.

Dr. Michael Corso is the Chief Academic Officer for the Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations. He has a doctorate in Education from Boston College, has been an educator for over thirty years, and has taught at every grade level kindergarten through graduate school. He is deeply committed to the belief that students are the agents of their own learning. This passion makes him a natural fit for work in the area of student aspirations. Dr. Corso has worked throughout his career to improve teaching and learning through teacher training and education. In his role at QISA, Dr. Corso combines research on student perceptions of their schools with educational theory and the living, breathing practice of students, teachers and administrators.

Russ and Michael are the authors of Student Voice: The Instrument of Change and Aspire High: Imagining Tomorrow’s Schools Today.

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