Elevate Student Voice to Improve Engagement and Achievement

Watch the RecordingListen to the Podcast

Students learn best when they feel supported in classrooms. As a result, schools are collecting and utilizing data on how students experience classrooms to help students and educators thrive. In the edLeader Panel “How to Elevate Student Voice to Improve Student Engagement and Achievement,” experts shared their insights about listening to students’ voices and using their provided data to better the classroom.

Dr. Sarah Gripshover, Director of Research at the Project for Education Research That Scales (PERTS), began by explaining the learning conditions that drive student engagement and success. “Students learn best in environments that affirm them, where there’s a sense of community, where they receive specific growth-oriented feedback and it’s OK to fail, it’s OK to make mistakes, where their voices are heard, and where they can see how much their teachers care,” she said.

When those conditions are met, PERTS found that students are twice as likely to earn good grades. She added that educators need to be ready to act when they ask students about their experiences. Giving students a voice means that data must be accompanied by action.

The panelists use the professional learning platform Elevate—which has a free option, Elevate Basic—to improve learning conditions in classrooms via Improvement Cycles. Teachers collect data from students, meet as a team to use the data to formulate plans, and then take a month to implement the plan before repeating. The goal is to see what does or doesn’t improve learning conditions.

Rachel Banas, Director of Operations and Student Services for West Buffalo Charter School (NY), described how the diverse school built alignment and teacher buy-in when Elevate was introduced. Elevate was presented as a way for teachers to grow as educators and was connected to the school’s goal of social-emotional learning.

The school got feedback from the students and enabled teachers to think about their feelings and needs beyond learning. Teachers used the data as a guide to grow and better understand students and validate their feelings. While there were mixed reactions amongst teachers at first, student improvement led to bigger teacher buy-in. The result: teachers became more confident and creative, lesson plans improved, students were given choices and validation, and test scores improved.

Next, Shannon Shambaugh, Equity Advancement Specialist for Evergreen Public Schools (WA), discussed what can go wrong when student voice efforts are implemented at the district level and how to correct issues. Some teachers had to be led into Elevate, while others were resistant. Communication was key to helping implementation and increasing teacher buy-in.

The biggest issue was teachers not acting on the student voice data collected, which fostered distrust, but the district is implementing a plan to resolve that. All schools are required to have an improvement plan that centers student belonging and elevates student voices, which has had a districtwide positive impact.

Finally, Dr. Kimberly Hinton, who works with 16-18 diverse high schools as the Director of Coaching for The Network for College Success (NCS), emphasized communication with students to show them that student voice data is being taken seriously and used to inform action. Schools need to share the reasons behind surveys with students so they can understand why the surveys are happening. Schools need to have conversations with students about the data to get their feedback and show them how their data is being used.

Asking students for feedback makes them vulnerable, so educators must show students that they take student experience data seriously. It is critical for educators to leverage student voice to make the classroom learning conditions optimized for student success.

Learn more about this edWeb broadcast, How to Elevate Student Voice to Improve Student Engagement and Achievement, sponsored by PERTS.

Watch the RecordingListen to the Podcast

Join the Community

Student Voice is a free professional learning community that helps you take student voice to a new level, and build student aspirations and ignite academic motivation.

PERTSThe Project for Education Research That Scales (PERTS) is an edtech nonprofit founded in 2010 at Stanford University. PERTS equips educators to create excellent and equitable learning conditions—conditions that foster engagement and accelerate learning. To do so, PERTS develops, tests, and scales the impact of evidence-based solutions in collaboration with hundreds of partner organizations.

3 Learning Conditions for Student Engagement & Achievement


Article by Jon Scanlon, based on this edLeader Panel