What's it about?
Young people have a lot to say about the things that matter to them. They’re powerful allies and partners when it comes to addressing wellness at school, and they have the right to be involved.
Amplifying student voice is about recognizing students as full and equal partners. It means engaging them in meaningful ways to:
- Solve problems
- Set priorities or directions
- Design plans and act on them
- Develop policies
- Make decisions
- Evaluate how it's going
This strategy aligns with positive youth development approaches and recognizes what many of us already know: Alberta’s students are strong, capable, and ready to give back.
This strategy isn’t just about gathering students’ opinions to inform change. It’s about re-thinking what we do so that students have greater responsibility, leadership, and accountability.
Here are some proven ideas to amplify youth voice in your school authority, school, or classroom. During the COVID-19 pandemic, you may need to adapt them to follow health measures in schools.
Create space for all voices
- Offer lots of different ways for students to share ideas, raise concerns, and give feedback about their school experience. This helps break down barriers and makes it easier for everyone to have a voice. Try:
- In-person or virtual check-ins
- Class meetings
- Talking circles
- Journal writing
- Online surveys, polls, or whiteboards
- Photography-based techniques, like PhotoVoice
- Recognize the limitations of formal structures like student councils, committees, and advisory groups. These may only appeal to certain students. Make a point of engaging those who have been excluded.
- Make it a priority to have multiple student representatives on school authority committees and other governance groups. Work toward shared power and responsibility, where students are co-designing and co-leading efforts.
Recognize youth agency
- Try youth action projects. This involves asking students about issues that matter to them, actively involving them in collecting data and perspectives from peers, then deciding together how to use the information to take action.
- Find ways for students to share ownership of school spaces and activities (including virtual ones). For example, they can create school art or other displays, design learning commons and other central spaces, host morning announcements, or organize fundraisers.
- Support students to organize in ways that are meaningful and productive to them, like through peer support networks or clubs based on common interests. Many of these transition well to virtual formats during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) are peer support networks run by students and supported by school staff. They’re associated with a range of benefits for sexual and gender minority students, from better self-esteem to lower reports of depression.
Promote civic participation
- Try service learning projects, or simply encourage students to give back to the school and community in ways that matter to them. With your support, students can take on leadership roles like:
- Classroom (or virtual classroom) organizer or helper
- Coach, mentor, or facilitator
- Fundraiser or donor
- Organizer or planner
- Playground leader
- Subject matter expert
How it connects
This strategy is sometimes known as student engagement or student voice. It's an essential condition for promoting health at school. When we amplify student voice, we support young people to be listened to, valued, and respected.
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