In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Student Voice in Teacher Development

  • Introduction
  • Pre-service Preparation for Teaching in Elementary and Secondary Schools
  • Professional Development for Practicing Elementary and Secondary Teachers
  • Faculty Learning and Professional Development in Higher Education
  • Student Voice in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
  • Assessment of and for Student and Teacher Learning

Education Student Voice in Teacher Development
Alison Cook-Sather
  • LAST REVIEWED: 19 August 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 November 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0117


Student voice in teacher development encompasses the range of ways that students take an active role in the learning of prospective and practicing teachers. This range includes opportunities for students to share their unique perspectives on teaching and learning and to collaborate with educators to explore, affirm, and revise pedagogical practice in K-16 classrooms. Student voice work aims to expand the traditional model of teacher learning, whereby teacher educators and developers are almost always more experienced adults, to foster dialogue and reciprocal teaching and learning between and among differently positioned participants in education. The goal of this expansion is not to replace seasoned practitioners and certified professionals with students but rather to legitimate alongside those experts the experiences, perspectives, and expertise of students, who spend their lives in classrooms and thus have important insights and capacities to contribute to teacher development. To achieve this goal, programs and projects create forums within which student voice as a concept can be explored, actual student voices and meaningful student participation can be invited and integrated into processes of teacher development, and outcomes of these efforts can be assessed. Such programs and projects can emerge in response to individual commitments, school- or district-wide reforms, foundation-funded initiatives, or provincial or national priorities. One of the longest standing efforts is a networking practice journal for teachers, parents, administrators, and others called Connect, edited and published entirely by Roger Holdsworth in Australia, that documents and supports student participation. School-wide models of student voice in curriculum development and teacher preparation, such as that at Eagle Rock School in Colorado and a district-wide effort in Vermont called the Youth and Adults Transforming Schools Together (YATST) program, are examples of large-scale, student voice efforts in the United States. Also in the United States, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gathered student responses to confidential questionnaire items with the goal of linking particular pedagogical practices with added value to student learning. In Canada, Jean Courtney, in the Ministry of Education in Ontario, has developed a robust set of programs through the SpeakUp program. England was home to some of the pioneers of this work, such as Jean Rudduck and Donald McIntyre at the University of Cambridge, and had enjoyed both governmental and foundation support. In recent years, though, governmental priorities in England have shifted away from student voice initiatives, making it more challenging for those committed to and engaged in this work. Efforts in the wider United Kingdom, however, and in other parts of the world have proliferated, particularly as emphasis has grown on active student engagement in their learning. These and other examples are discussed in greater detail in the different sections of this article.

Definition of Terms

The terms pupil voice (in England and Australia) and student voice (in the United States and Canada) emerged in the 1990s. As the inclusion of students’ voices and participation in teacher development has expanded, terms used to describe the specific ways in which students participate in teacher development have also expanded. Debate is ongoing over whether these terms should be more literal, referring to the actual practices through which students’ words and participation are invited, or more metaphorical, standing for students’ presence, participation, and power in the forums within which teacher development takes place. What the terms have in common, though, is that they signal each student speaking from his or her individual position and perspective and the collective insights offered and active contributions made by students as a diverse group.

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