May 2019

Valuing Student Voices

Teaching is one of the most rewarding professions. Sometimes, however, the array of tasks, from preparing lesson plans, grading, and tracking student progress to addressing parental concerns, attending professional development, and meeting state and federal mandates, can overburden teachers to the point where they overlook one of the most important responsibilities: listening to students.

US PREP acknowledges students’ voices as an essential component of teacher preparation. In doing so, US PREP underscores the value of democratic education where children are appreciated as individuals developing within safe, caring, and supportive learning communities.

The US PREP model captures student voices through the Student Perception Survey (SPS; CEI, 2013). The SPS is a valid and reliable instrument that measures student perceptions of four distinct, yet interrelated characteristics of the learning environment: a) student learning, b) student-centered environment, c) classroom community, and d) classroom management. The SPS was created on the premises that teachers care about their students and are intentional about affording them a classroom climate that is conducive to learning.

Teacher candidates from Sam Houston State University conducted presentations on the implementation of the student perception surveys. During the academic year 2018-2019, candidates collected SPS in a pre-post format, from students across several school districts.  According to Susan Harte, a Site Coordinator at Sam Houston State, “The Pre-Assessment results suggested refinement needed in the area of Student-Centered Environment: How teachers create an environment that responds to individual students’ backgrounds, strengths, and interests." As a result, the teacher candidates implemented interventions focused on cultivating instructional strategies that fostered relevant and real-life content, brain breaks, resource-rich environments, and journal writing.  

Upon completion of the academic year, TCs were given an opportunity to reflect on how their intervention plans had impacted children socially and academically. Sam Houston State teacher candidate, Kellee Miller reflected, “Studying the results of this survey allowed me to see that it is essential to build a trusting relationship with students, especially when we are expecting them to perform at incredibly high standards. I used interventions to help cultivate a student-centered environment in my classroom.” As a result of her interventions, Miller saw tremendous improvements in her students’ perceptions from the pre-to-post administration of the SPS. 

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