A story of student voice
Interview with Nicole Kelleher, Teacher at Elderslie Primary School in NSW
Nicole, what does student voice look like in your classroom?
In my classroom, student voice can be heard every day. It starts with students giving direction into what they would like to learn about and students taking ownership and responsibility for what they learn. Students co-develop success criteria to ensure they have a deep understanding of what success looks like. Using that success criteria, students give peer to peer feedback. At the end of a unit or focus, students are asked to give me feedback. Through the triangulation of student voice, assessment data and observations, I am able to reflect on the impact of my lessons.
How do you use student voice to make changes in your classroom?
Students in my classroom are given the opportunity to be listened to regularly and to share their ideas, knowledge and opinions on a topic. I always ensure their ideas are validated. This can be as simple as writing their ideas down on the board or telling another teacher about their idea. Students are given the authority to make changes (to their learning) by being asked for their opinion and then given designated time to share, action plan and brainstorm. My students and I reflect on their learning and the impact their voice has made to their engagement and success.
What was the most surprising thing you learned about your teaching from the Pivot experience?
I would say that I teach a beautiful bunch of kids… When I received my Pivot results, I was surprised to see that the class observed some challenges around their own behaviour. When reflecting on this, I realised that the throw-away comments about the (minimal) negative behaviour of a few was being felt by the whole class and had impacted their overall reflection of themselves. Making a simple change to the way I spoke about behaviour, and pointing out the positive behaviours I saw, changed the whole class’s perspective of themselves.
How does Pivot impact your students, both during and beyond the survey?
I think giving students a platform to have their voice heard ‘loud’, such as Pivot, means students feel empowered, seen and valued. I think the first time my school did the Pivot survey, the students felt nervous and asked for reassurance that it was anonymous. But then after the survey, when I sat down with my students and asked them how I could improve in the areas they had identified and what changes they would like to see implemented, they felt empowered and saw first-hand how feedback is a positive thing and how it can help us improve. My students saw for themselves how much I care for them because they knew I wanted to improve and be the best teacher for them that I could be.
Elderslie Primary School is located in the south-west of Sydney, accommodating nearly 500 students.