Seen and Heard: 4 Examples of How to Incorporate Student Voice, Choice, and SEL

Research shows that giving students agency and influence in their learning makes them more engaged and invested in their education. It also empowers them to take control, show initiative, and adopt leadership roles. Giving students voice and choice also helps them feel valued, encourages them to realize their interests and potential, and can improve their academic outcomes. 

Student voice/choice and social and emotional learning (SEL) go hand-in-hand. SEL helps students develop agency because it teaches them to engage authentically as leaders, problem-solvers, and decision-makers. It also improves students’ communication skills and their ability to advocate for themselves. 

Below are four ways schools can incorporate student voice, choice, and SEL in students’ learning.

Example 1: Student Voice/Choice and Leadership

Involving students in designing their instruction can be a great way to promote student voice/choice, and it also fosters leadership skills, motivation, and investment in their education. Invite students to design all or part of their SEL instruction, perhaps during an advisory period. Have students define what the instruction will include, how it will be facilitated, and how they can measure program impacts.

Example 2: Data-Driven Decision-Making

Inviting students to examine and reflect on their SEL data can improve their self-efficacy and goal-setting skills. This could be a simple conversation about their data, like asking students if they agree with it and helping them brainstorm ways they can improve. This is an effective way for students to express their own voice, set goals, and work toward their growth opportunities in a personalized and effective way. 

Programs like the Aperture Student Portal allow high school students to complete a self-assessment on their social and emotional competency, and then take on challenges and set personal goals based upon their results, putting them in the driver’s seat of their own growth.

Example 3: Adult/Student Collaboration

Creating opportunities for adults and students to collaborate not only promotes student voice/choice, but it also strengthens teacher-student relationships. Within SEL, this could mean including students in the administration of the SEL program, involving them in analyzing SEL data trends, and making collaborative decisions around how to improve school climate based on aggregate SEL survey results. 

Example 4: Student Expression

Hosting town halls is an excellent way to give students a platform where they can speak about topics that are important to them. The town halls can center on topics of the students’ choice, such as learning challenges, celebrating areas of strength, equity, etc. Giving students meaningful ways to express their strengths and concerns, while also eliciting feedback from teachers and peers, will go a long way toward building self-confidence and self-efficacy and will make them feel valued. 

There are many ways to integrate student voice/choice within a school, and they can range from simple classroom activities to highly involved initiatives that address foundational school or district educational practices. SEL assessment data can enhance student voice/choice frameworks and can give students and teachers the data they need to facilitate conversations, examine strengths and areas for improvement, and guide instruction and supports. 

Aperture Education is committed to helping schools empower students through student voice/choice. Learn more through our whitepaper, Seen and Heard: Benefits of Incorporating Student Voice, Choice, and SEL Into the Academic Framework. Fill out the form below to download the whitepaper.

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