How can I help learners participate with their own voices?

I was scanning through the article on learner voice, and felt it’s particularly applicable to the projects that I’m working on right now. Part of my job is to help the students participate with their own voices, whether it’s in my own classes, outside class, or in the classes of others. As a teacher, do I understand and act upon learners’ views? I try to. One of my main goals has been to help guide students to become autonomous learners. I often tell them that yes, I’m a teacher by name of profession, but that I and they both can play other roles in the classroom, like leader, collaborator, team member, facilitator, and so on.

We’re beginning the process of designing curriculum for the various programs that are offered, and needs analysis is the first step, so many of the questions that the text poses caught my attention. Are there clear ways in which the learners are involved in decision-making processes? What tools/methods, if any, are being used for listening to learners’ voices? Does the culture of the institution support the development of learner voice? And what evidence do I have that learners’ voices are being listened to and acted upon? I believe that we sometimes assume that our students think the same as we do in everything. Without giving the learners a way of expressing themselves and knowing that their thoughts count, we risk harming the learning process. They need to know that their views are valued, which requires the institution and staff to be flexible and adaptable. Students can play a valuable role as curriculum developers as well.

The tools that we’ve been looking at in OWP provide many ways of empowering learners. I myself feel empowered in this session, knowing that what I’m writing and commenting on has a reading audience. I hadn’t felt that way before with blogging, since most of the comments made were few and far between, by random people. We are much more likely to express ourselves and find our voice if we are doing so in an environment where that voice is valued.