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|Student Voice: Power, Democracy and Neoliberalism
|Tymukas, Benjamin Kostas
|School of Education
|The past decade or so has seen an increase in literature that addresses the concept of student voice. Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States (US) have been particularly noticeable proponents of the concept. Within many ‘western’ democracies (including Australia), the existence of student voice is a mandatory element of education (the US being a notable exception). A core issue with the idea of student voice, is the breadth of activities that this can refer to. Because of this there is a lack of clarity around what student voice is and how it should be considered and implemented. Often the term is used in reference to student leadership or governance programs, such as Student Representative Councils (SRC). It can also refer to classroom ‘voice’ and democratic pedagogical practice. Despite the common presence of some form of student voice in schools, this paper found evidence that these programs are often poorly implemented. The potential benefits are poorly understood and are often not reflected in the data used for quantifying school, or student, performance. This research aimed to answer the question: How can we better conceptualise student voice? The aims were to create an understanding of literature addressing student voice, and the positive and negative effects of ‘voice’ that this research supported. Through this, the aim was then to understand the barriers that exist that prevent student voice from reaching its potential, and how these can be addressed. The final aim was to apply the understanding garnered to a school case study. The case study was a flagship student voice program, the Youth Action Team (YAT), which was being operated by the Northern Adelaide Suburbs State Secondary School Alliance NASSSA. The YAT was a student voice program, operating across the 11 member schools of NASSSA, promoting interschool relationships and community engagement. This paper uses a literature review as data to inform analysis. It explores the way educators and governing bodies conceptualise voice, and questions how current practice can be adapted to provide more democratic, inclusive and responsive education. It finds that there are structural and governance issues that lead to a tendency for student voice programs to lack the support and understanding for success. Bacchi’s ‘What is the Problem Represented to Be’ method is used for a discourse analysis of literature addressing the issue of student voice. The research finds evidence indicating power and economic factors that are suspected barriers to the realisation of democratic potential in the classroom and in school governance. The value of student voice is obscured by dominant economic narratives, and the power structures that are produced by them.
|Thesis (MTeach) -- University of Adelaide, School of Education, 2019
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