This dimension is part of the
Positive Climate for Learning priority and is identified as a high-impact Improvement Initiative.
Students who find their own voice in supportive schools are more likely to develop a confident voice, a capacity to act in the world and a willingness to lead others. Student engagement is enhanced when students feel able to exert influence and participate more fully in the classroom, school and community.
Voice, agency and leadership represent different aspects of student empowerment. Each aspect relies on a student's belief that they are both supported and empowered, in ways that help them to develop their knowledge, skills and dispositions in the classroom, school and community. This requires a deliberate, planned and coherent approach to embedding voice, agency and leadership within a positive climate for learning.
Results from system surveys, available in
Panorama, can be used to measure progress, and as success indicators. Suggested surveys include:
- Attitude to Schools Survey – the 'school connectedness' and 'student voice and agency' factors
- School Staff Survey – the 'use student feedback to improve practice' and 'trust in students and parents' factors
- Parent Opinion Survey – the 'school pride and confidence' and 'student agency and voice' factors.
Growth in NAPLAN data (Top 2 Bands, Benchmark Growth) and trends in VCE scores may be used as long-term measures of school improvement efforts.
Student voice practice guide (Amplify)
The Continuum for empowering students and building school pride describes a range of proficiency levels (emerging, evolving, embedding and excelling) that assists principals and teachers to identify areas of practice that require attention in order to deliver improved student outcomes.
Component: The school activates student voice, agency and leadership
Leaders and teachers establish a Student Representative Council (SRC) which is representative of the student population. Leaders and teachers demonstrate that student voice is important in building student motivation and engagement, and are developing their policies and practice accordingly. Students have some opportunities to direct the path of their learning. A senior teacher is responsible for fostering student voice and supporting students in developing their leadership skills.
Students have access to a broad range of structured leadership roles in the school. Leaders and teachers understand the role they play in supporting students to express their ideas and opinions. Teachers provide students in leadership positions with training in the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to effectively exercise their student voice, leadership and agency. Teachers and leaders collect student perception and engagement data.
Leaders and teachers proactively involve students in decision-making about planning and improvement, with links to the School Improvement Team (SIT) and/or school council. Leaders engage student leaders to elicit feedback on the level of agency students have in their classroom learning. Leaders and teachers create conditions which allow members of the student leadership teams to confidently represent their fellow students. Leaders use surveys and student forums to monitor student perceptions of school culture and classroom practice. Leaders and student leaders annually review student leadership positions and roles with the view to making them more effective and rewarding.
Students are actively involved in and/or lead the design and implementation of school programs and policy, creating student-led learning, belonging and engagement opportunities. Leaders and teachers continually engage with, listen to and respond to the full range of student views, priorities and feedback. Teachers help to develop students’ communication and leadership skills, working with a variety of community members to provide opportunities for students to practise these skills. Leaders, teachers and students regularly use on student perception and engagement data when making decisions about curriculum and planning.
Component: The school builds connectedness and school pride
Leaders and teachers acknowledge the importance of creating a learning environment that engenders a feeling of pride and connectedness among students. Teachers celebrate student achievement at a classroom level. Teacher discussions about students’ achievements with peers, parents/carers/ kin and staff are positive and designed to build student self-esteem and pride in their achievements.
Leaders and teachers have regular opportunities for sharing and celebrating student and school achievements, such as through the curriculum, school assemblies, classroom presentations and newsletters. Teachers gather feedback to evaluate whether students enjoy their learning, regard their teachers positively and feel they are taught in an engaging way.
Leaders monitor student belonging and engagement through surveys and student forums, sharing data with students and seeking their feedback. Leaders review the effectiveness of the school’s family and community events program, reviewing the school’s strategy for celebrating its benefits. Leaders, teachers, students and community members hold established events and traditions that are highly valued by leadership, as they foster belonging, engagement and school pride.
Leaders and teachers embed a culture in which students enjoy strong social ties, and feel accepted, cared for and supported by their peers, teachers and the wider school community. Student leaders regularly hold student forums, and collect and analyse student perception data, which informs teaching, learning, wellbeing and broader school improvement programs. Leaders and teachers are committed to and prioritise celebration of all student achievement and progress across, and beyond, the curriculum. Leaders and teachers maintain positive relationships with members of the community, and engage them in the events, activities and promotion of the school.
To see examples of how schools in Victoria are implementing the FISO dimension: Empowering students and building school pride see: Empowering Students and building school pride case studies.
To view the evidence base for the FISO positive climate for learning priority area see: Evidence - Positive climate for learning evidence base
Why should my school consider this improvement initiative?
Schools that build a culture where teachers and students work together, and where student voice is heard and respected, contribute to students building their confidence (a sense of self-worth and mastery) and having a sense of self-efficacy (belief in one's capacity to succeed).
Students feel more positive and connected to their school, see themselves as learners, better understand their learning and growth and feel confident in expressing this to teachers and parents/carers who value their views and opinions. Giving students the ability to influence their learning through collaborative decision-making engages them as educational decision-makers.
Students who take responsibility for their own learning become more independent, self-aware and have the ability to analyse their own learning (meta-cognition). Students who have a clear understanding of their existing competencies and the steps required to progress to the next level engage more deeply in learning.
How will my school know if we should consider this improvement initiative?
Consider the following:
- Do some cohorts in the school have substantially lower levels of learning confidence than their peers?
- To what extent do students feel a sense of belonging and connectedness to their teachers and the school?
- To what extent do students feel they are listened to and their needs understood?
- To what extent do students feel they can change things about their school?
- To what extent do students have a positive perception of their ability as a student?
What could my school focus on?
- Promoting and facilitating positive teacher-student relationships
- Promoting student drive, motivation and confidence for learning
- Promoting student leadership and voice
- Supporting student participation in school decision making
- Supporting student confidence in learning and achievement.
Where to next?
If you choose to focus on this Improvement Initiative, the tasks below may assist you to develop actions that your school implements:
- Model the principles of student voice and agency in all aspects of school operations.
- Consult with students, and give and receive feedback on classroom teaching practices.
- Modify practices to accommodate the needs of all students, working with students to develop units of work, and build a positive class culture that values the voice of all students.
- Implement systems and approaches (such as surveys and Student Representative Councils) that give students a say in the decisions that affect their learning and their lives at school by:
- creating an inclusive and supportive school community environment that actively promotes a culture of inclusion and belonging within a culture of high expectations for any student
- reviewing the existing student engagement policy in consultation with students, staff and parents/carers, leading to the development of a shared vision and inclusive culture where everyone's opinion is valued and taken into account
- teachers reviewing and considering feedback from students to inform their teaching practice, and curriculum and lesson planning.
- Regularly seek feedback from students about the extent of their learning and support students to take on leadership responsibilities within the school and community by:
- empowering students to organise a Student Representative Council (SRC) that has a clear vision and mission, and clearly defined roles and responsibilities which are agreed between the leadership team and the student body
- providing opportunities for student representatives to consult with the student body so that all student opinions are represented
- ensuring opportunities are provided for students to give feedback in each class
- provide students with other opportunities to take up leadership responsibilities within the school and the community.
- Develop strategies to improve students' intellectual engagement and awareness of their own learning needs by:
- assessing data (e.g. Attitude to School Survey, lateness to class, in-class engagement) to identify existing issues and opportunities and create baseline data for future monitoring of progress
- involving all students in a buddy or mentor program that pairs more confident students with less confident students.
- Provide students with the support and tools to understand the impact of their involvement on learning outcomes and to reflect on, discuss and influence their own learning by:
- building strong relationships and rapport between all students and teachers
- providing students with the tools and skills to enable them to build confidence and a positive sense of self-worth.
How can the Child Safe Standards support us to implement this initiative?
Participation and empowerment of children is a focus of the new Child Safe Standards that apply in all Victorian schools from 1 August 2016. These compulsory Standards aim to ensure schools are well prepared to protect children from abuse and neglect.
Standard 7 requires schools to have strategies to promote the participation and empowerment of children. Schools are encouraged to involve students when developing a Child Safe Policy, Statement of Commitment to child safety or when developing the Child Safety Code of Conduct.
Compliance with Ministerial Order 870, which operationalises the Standards in schools, will contribute to the work schools are already doing to empower students and build school pride. For more information, see:
For more information, see:
Positive Climate for Learning priority