The Importance Of Exploring Student Perspective When Making Educational Policy

1526 words - 6 pages

Educational policy is usually formed without the voice of those it affects most: students. Cook-Sather (2002) advocates for the inclusion of student perspectives as a unique voice that can influence educational policies in "Authorizing Students Prospectives: Toward Trust, Dialogue, and Change in Education." Understanding how students' easy access to electronic media influences their situated position, Cook-Sather writes, "Authorizing student perspectives recognizes and responds to the profound and unprecedented ways in which the world has changed and continues to change and the position students occupy in relation to this change" (Cook-Sather, 2002, p. 3-4). Never before have students had so much information available and under their own command. This change in the dynamics of obtaining and using information also changes the power structure in education and the way in which students create their own knowledge. Traditionally, students would have regarded teachers as the ultimate information holders; however, now they can quickly and easily substantiate or refute arguments or facts presented in class with electronic media. With this additional access to information, students can present more informed comments in class.
Students have a valuable voice that should be heard and reflected in educational policy. Cook-Sather calls it the "missing voice in educational research: the student" (2002, p. 5). Before students can move into a more influential position regarding educational policies; teachers, administrators, and researchers all need to adjust the way they listen to students. The relationships that adults have with students; the institutional structures that teachers and students interact in; and the mindsets of teachers, administrators, and other adults must change to allow the student voice not only to be heard, but also to influence educational policies. The logistical, psychological, intellectual, and personal components of the power structure in education are challenged by allowing student voices to be heard and acted upon. "When one tries to alter established educational structures and power dynamics, one necessarily faces a variety of difficulties, which are also opportunities" (Cook-Sather, 2002, p. 8).
Cook-Sather examines authorizing student voices through six different perspectives, analyzing the works of many different authors. From social critics positioned outside the classroom looking in to constructivist pedagogies founded in the belief that students create their own understanding of knowledge, many different perspectives are used to strengthen Cook-Sather's message of authorizing student voices. When speaking of foregrounding students' interpertive frames, Cook-Sather draws attention to a teacher who "reshap[es] her practice based on students' notions: hearing children's questions and theories, responding with curriculum" (Cook-Sather, 2002, p.7). In addition, student voices from the perspective of postmodern and...

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