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Heng, Mary Anne
Lee, Christine Kim-eng
Many scholars have highlighted that although students are seen as beneficiaries of educational policies and practice, they remain silent witnesses and are excluded in deliberations surrounding their educational experiences (e.g. Baroutsis, McGregor & Mills, 2016; Cook-Sather, 2006; Fielding, 2001, 2004a, 2004b; Keddie, 2015; Ng, 2004; Rudduck & Flutter, 2000). A growing body of literature under the term “student voice” suggests that students can contribute meaningfully to the discourse surrounding schooling, teaching and learning.
In addition, while much of the published research has focused on student voice initiatives carried out by researchers, little is known of how teachers themselves enact such efforts in their classrooms, particularly within high-stakes examination contexts. This study explored what such an endeavour looked like within English Language classrooms, given the importance of the English Language in Singapore (Alsagoff, 2007; Cheah, 2002; Choo, 2014; Curdt & Silver, 2012; Sripathy, 2007; Wee, 2003).
Using a case-study approach, this study provided a detailed description of efforts by five teachers across three schools in Singapore, to invite and respond to student voices in their classrooms. Data was collected from observations, interviews with students and teachers, field notes, a questionnaire as well as artefacts created by teachers for their student voice initiatives in order to address the following research questions:
What are students’ and teachers’ experiences of student voice efforts, prior to the classroom-based student voice initiatives in Singapore schools?
How do teachers design and enact classroom-based student voice initiatives in English Language classrooms in Singapore?
What do student voices reveal about their experiences of teaching and learning, beyond their teachers’ student voice initiatives?
Situating the student voice initiative within the high-stakes context of English Language classrooms in Singapore gave rise to many challenges. These challenges seemed to prevent the teachers from listening and responding to their students in ways that they had initially articulated, opting instead to be cautious and conservative.
Initial teacher enthusiasm generally fizzled out and the teachers’ student voice initiatives became peripheral in these teachers’ classrooms. Three types of teacher actions could be extracted; described here as sustained scepticism, hampered by concerns and constraints and one of tentative possibilities. Additionally, notions of risk, power and competence appeared to play an important role for both teachers and students throughout the study.
Additionally, examining student voices in relation to the academic curriculum presented a potentially powerful, albeit largely untapped resource for teacher growth, learning and development particularly through praxis, involving both reflection and action. Also, student voices in this study drew attention to aspects of classroom practice and teacher qualities that students saw as important and relevant to them as learners, particularly those of connections, care and competency.
Finally, this study recognizes that both teachers and students need support and structures for the fruition of such initiatives. Contributions to theory and literature include positioning student voice initiatives as opportunities for praxis. Possibilities and suggestions for policy and practice are also made, particularly in the areas of curriculum-making, teacher authority and building more trusting relationships.
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checked on Jan 24, 2021
checked on Jan 24, 2021
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