The role of students’ voices in their education experience is the topic of discussion around the “whole child” approach to education in the latest episode of the video podcast ElevatED4SC. It is now available with the video and audio versions on YouTube, Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
The concept of whole child education focuses on meeting students’ needs beyond just their classroom assignments and interactions. This episode looks at the idea of teachers seeking students’ input and ideas to create a more meaningful education experience in the classroom and beyond. Merrit Jones, an advisor to Student Voice and an ALL4SC fellow, and Barnett Berry, research professor at the UofSC College of Education, discuss the idea of engaging students in their education experience with ElevatED4SC host Roshanda Pratt.
“Students are the primary stakeholders in education,” Jones said. “They have to be partners in shaping what their experience looks like.”
This involvement could be as simple as students having conversations with their teachers to give real time feedback on the classroom experience. “Students need opportunities to exercise their voice, and that can start in really small ways,” said Jones. “ We know that in most South Carolina schools, teachers have the standards they have to follow. But they do have some flexibility in how they administer that curriculum like what projects they might introduce. Just asking students what they think about a project could be an easy starting place”
Setting up ways for students to work together with each other, with other teachers, and with members of the community is a first step toward engaging students in a new way. In segment two of the vodcast, Jones describes an example of co-creation from students in a New Jersey after school program.
“I worked with a group from Teach for America’s Reinvention Lab that put out proposals asking for teams of young people and their adult supporters, which often include teachers and community members, to submit designs for a sneaker that would illustrate what the future of learning looks like to them,” Jones said.
The team that designed the shoes Jones is wearing in the vodcast said the future of learning is inclusive. “It was a team of Black and brown girls in Trenton, New Jersey, that worked alongside adults in their life to design a sneaker that looked like them, that represented what they wanted the future of learning to look like. It’s a great example of the kinds of things you can learn in a classroom that can be applied to real life.”
Berry used this example of designing a shoe to illustrate how this idea of student voice can affect the role of a teacher. “ Think about what teachers, other community folks and the students did together in this school,” Berry says. “What does that mean for the work life of a teacher?”
For example, the teachers in this project did more than just help students with a design. “You need to know math to design a shoe. You need to know something about art and design elements. And you also have to know a whole lot more about entrepreneurship,” said Berry. “This idea of whole child education means teachers have the time and space to not only work with other colleagues, but also work with kids in the production of the shoe and then have the time and space to innovate with community members. That’s where the relationship between students leading their own learning and teacher leadership becomes indelibly linked.”
To hear more of the interviews, listen to or watch the 18-minute ElevatED4SC vodcast for more about South Carolina’s efforts around whole child education.
ALL4SC is the producing partner for the ElevatED4SC vodcast series. ALL4SC – Accelerating Learning & Leadership in South Carolina – is a University of South Carolina initiative advocating a whole child approach to education. Other partners in producing the vodcast series include UofSC’s College of Education, UofSC’s College of Information and Communications, and Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative.
ElevatED4SC features success stories illustrating how education transformation is already happening in some South Carolina schools. Two 18-minute episodes are released monthly. Previous episodes and show notes are at ElevatED4SC.com. The series host is Roshanda Pratt, a Midlands-area veteran broadcast professional.