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Listening to Current Students . . . To Help Future Ones
Unformatted Document Text:  powerless people. They are told that they are in school not because of what they know but because of what they don’t know” (p.20). Susan Ohanian (1999) writes of the disconnect between politicians and students: “It is typical of an education bureaucrat to assume that students . . . must be behind in something called basic skills . . . Schools can’t improve themselves if they ignore the students. It seems such a simple matter to ask our students what they really dislike about school and talk about what we might do to change it” (p. 20, 23). There are added reasons to listen to students’ opinions such as school improvement and academic achievement, which are interrelated factors. Numerous studies (see, for example, Doyle, 1977; Winne & Marx, 1980; Wittrock, 1986) have documented the importance of students’ beliefs and perceptions linking them with teacher effects on learning, the development of teaching theories, and an analysis of how instruction is put into practice, all of which have potential to improve outcomes. Thus, gathering, reading, and presenting student voices from all backgrounds, schools, and locations are integral to improving educational experiences. As Ornstein notes, “The focus of . . . research should be on the learner, not the teacher; on the feelings and attitudes of the student, not on knowledge and information; and on the long-term development and growth of the students, not on short-term objectives or specific teacher tasks” (2003, p. 81). Contribution: Although many quantitative and qualitative studies are completed each year, unless researchers conduct in-depth analyses based upon first person narratives from students, real change may not be possible for those it affects the most. The proposed paper directly relates to the strand “Imagining Future Students, Future Teachers” in that by asking public school students about their educational experiences they are telling stakeholders about the future. Only by listening to “current” can authentic change occur. Relevance: The proposed paper session is directly linked to policy and successful practices. First, although not registered voters, students can inform those in charge regarding what works and doesn’t in their education, simply by putting their thoughts on paper for adults to read. Moreover, many of the students were quite vocal in praising their teachers and schools for doing good work. Despite what many adults might think, children and adolescents are very aware of the politics of schooling. I simply provided them with a wider audience. Implication for Action: My work with public school students has already created action and change. For example, one middle school was so proud of its students’ contributions to my research, that it hosted an author’s book signing. Inviting parents and county officials, the school held a formal reception where student authors signed the book and it is now housed in the library. That exposure gives voice to students. Parents and stakeholders, reading of students’ concerns, will now have greater insight about what needs to be improved and/or maintained at their school. As more adults read what students have to say, they may get inspired to examine practices in their local schools—leading to change.

Authors: Scherff, Lisa.
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powerless people. They are told that they are in school not because of what they know
but because of what they don’t know” (p.20). Susan Ohanian (1999) writes of the
disconnect between politicians and students: “It is typical of an education bureaucrat to
assume that students . . . must be behind in something called basic skills . . . Schools can’t
improve themselves if they ignore the students. It seems such a simple matter to ask our
students what they really dislike about school and talk about what we might do to change
it” (p. 20, 23).
There are added reasons to listen to students’ opinions such as school
improvement and academic achievement, which are interrelated factors. Numerous
studies (see, for example, Doyle, 1977; Winne & Marx, 1980; Wittrock, 1986) have
documented the importance of students’ beliefs and perceptions linking them with
teacher effects on learning, the development of teaching theories, and an analysis of how
instruction is put into practice, all of which have potential to improve outcomes. Thus,
gathering, reading, and presenting student voices from all backgrounds, schools, and
locations are integral to improving educational experiences. As Ornstein notes, “The
focus of . . . research should be on the learner, not the teacher; on the feelings and
attitudes of the student, not on knowledge and information; and on the long-term
development and growth of the students, not on short-term objectives or specific teacher
tasks” (2003, p. 81).

Contribution: Although many quantitative and qualitative studies are completed each
year, unless researchers conduct in-depth analyses based upon first person narratives
from students, real change may not be possible for those it affects the most. The proposed
paper directly relates to the strand “Imagining Future Students, Future Teachers” in that
by asking public school students about their educational experiences they are telling
stakeholders about the future. Only by listening to “current” can authentic change occur.


Relevance: The proposed paper session is directly linked to policy and successful
practices. First, although not registered voters, students can inform those in charge
regarding what works and doesn’t in their education, simply by putting their thoughts on
paper for adults to read. Moreover, many of the students were quite vocal in praising their
teachers and schools for doing good work. Despite what many adults might think,
children and adolescents are very aware of the politics of schooling. I simply provided
them with a wider audience.


Implication for Action: My work with public school students has already created action
and change. For example, one middle school was so proud of its students’ contributions
to my research, that it hosted an author’s book signing. Inviting parents and county
officials, the school held a formal reception where student authors signed the book and it
is now housed in the library. That exposure gives voice to students. Parents and
stakeholders, reading of students’ concerns, will now have greater insight about what
needs to be improved and/or maintained at their school. As more adults read what
students have to say, they may get inspired to examine practices in their local schools—
leading to change.


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