Project meeting - Utrecht

The fourth ’Student Voice – the Bridge to Learning’ project meeting was held in Utrecht, on 11-12 October, 2017 with the participation of the five partner countries: Slovenia, Scotland, Ireland, Hungary and the Netherlands.

Jeroen Bron opened the two-day meeting, and the project partners gave short presentations on the progress of their work in each participating country. After each presentation the partners reflected  on the updates  of the presenting members. Connected to the progress of the countries Anette Koopmans gave an overview of the state of affairs based on the country reports (Anette Koopmans, SLO: Project evaluation - state of affairs country reports).

The project evaluation was followed by team work and a new interpretation of student voice (Norman Emerson, NCCA: What do we mean by Student Voice?) based on the idea of metro maps.  The program ended by plans and discussions about the next project event (Developing ideas for the Multiplier event – International Student Voice Conference in Dublin, 13/14 December, 2017, Dublin).

During the meeting the project partners had the opportunity to listen to some lectures - based on research and good practices - related to Student Voice. A lecture entitled ’Participation, voice and education’ was held by Isolde de Groot, (University of Humanistic Studies). The lecture focused on teaching democracy, value and citizenship education at ISCED 2 level in 28 European countries.

The ’Student voice and school improvement’ lecture, held by Ingrid Paalman-Dijkinga (Windesheim Teacher College), presented some experiences of empirical study, showing students’ reflexions to questions related to school work and engagement at primary and secondary levels of the Dutch education system. The lecturer emphasized the relative lack of engagement in students’ school life, and the importance of learning-friendly environments in strengthening student motivation and voice.

Kor Posthumus, a headteacher of a primary school gave a presentation of a good practice: a primary school in Gronongen, using Jena plan (Kor Posthumus: Tools for student voice in primary education). Jena Plan gives considerable autonomy for children and teachers, children have many possibilities to make their choices during primary education. The experiences of the primary school show that children who leave the school acquire good social skills, and become creative, trustful persons who prove to be successful at secondary level education too. ’It’s all about the school culture, the culture.’

After summarising the developments reached in Utrecht, the participants tried to formulate a new common definition of Student Voice. Student Voice – the Bridge to Learning is taking a collaborative, inclusive approach to developing enhanced student voice in our classrooms and across our schools. Our students and teachers feel empowered, develop a range of skills, and are supported in becoming self-directed learners and active citizens. As part this process our students play a meaningful role in collaborating with their teachers in shaping the curriculum and culture at class and whole-school.