Student voice and the community forum: finding ways of 'being heard' at an alternative school for disenfranchised young people
Baroutsis, A and Mills, M and McGregor, G and te Riele, K and Hayes, D, Student voice and the community forum: finding ways of 'being heard' at an alternative school for disenfranchised young people, British Educational Research Journal, 42, (3) pp. 438-453. ISSN 0141-1926 (2016) [Refereed Article]
Copyright 2015 British Educational Research Association
Opportunities for students to speak and to be heard are important elements of democratic schooling processes but research into student voice has shown that a culture of silence is a more common feature of schooling. Efforts to re-engage young people in learning often recognise the importance of schooling processes that provide them with opportunities to participate meaningfully in schooling dialogues. This paper describes attempts to provide such opportunities for young people in an alternative school, who had been marginalised in mainstream schooling. Research was conducted over a period of 18 months, utilising a range of data collection methods, including interviews, observations, photography and the collection of artefacts, such as school documents. Drawing particularly on data related to a daily community forum, the paper explores how this routine afforded opportunities for student voice. The three-part structure of the forum produced a range of effects, including: a discussion of issues related to local and wider community news as well as college announcements; a check-in where each member of the community voiced their readiness (or otherwise) for the day's learning; and a sign-up process that incorporated informed decision making about the day's learning sessions. It is argued that the intentions that underpin the community forum are important and relevant in all forms of schooling, not just alternative programmes, but these intentions can produce unintended effects.