TWO STUDENTS talking with a teacher

The Power of Student Voices


“Those teachers who are the students of their own impact are the teachers who are the most influential in raising students’ achievement.” –John Hattie

Everything we do at Mills Teacher Scholars focuses on helping teachers and leaders to be students of their own impact. We are continuously seeking to understand alongside our partners: What has to be true for educators to be students of their own impact? What conditions need to be in place? What tools and processes support the learning?

There are many ways to understand impact: test scores, site-based assessments, classroom assignments and observations. One extremely powerful tool is listening to the individual voices of learners. Conversations with learners shed light on where we are and where we’re going next.

child smiling in classroom

Here are a few ideas to consider when preparing to understand impact through focal student conversations:

  • What if communication is difficult? Students with special needs or younger students may require more time to share their thinking. Newcomer students may need a trusted peer to support translation.
  • Who is it for? Is it to provide data for the teacher, the student, or both? Students come to realize things for themselves as they think aloud with someone.
  • What is the focus of my listening? Do I want it to be focused? Data can present surprises that we might not be open to otherwise. Consider listening to be surprised or listening to debunk an assumption that you have.
  • What if I don’t find what I’m looking for? Often times a question doesn’t yield the kind of information we are hoping to find. Consider having multiple ways to surface a learner’s ideas.