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Fostering Creative Confidence through "A Day for Student Voice"

The program we are suggesting entails taking one day out of the school year to allow for what we call "Student Voice Day." Within this event, students will be asked "what do you want to learn" and create courses based on their interests.

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“A Day for Student Voice”<o:p></o:p>

How Might We Inspire Young People to Cultivate their Creativity & Confidence<o:p></o:p>



         We challenge our fellow educators to empower students with voice and ownership of their learning. Join us in creating a “day of student voice,” where students, parents, and faculty in your buildings can make choices on what they will learn and how they will spend an entire day teaching each other and learning together. <o:p></o:p>


The Situation<o:p></o:p>

Students in the vast majority of our schools have little to no voice in what, when or how they learn.  Shields (2011) writes that “Horace Mann and later John Dewey emphasized that schools needed to become more democratic themselves if they were going to contribute to the further democratization of American society” and that schools should “become miniature democratic societies where students learn how their actions affect the well-being and success of the group” (p. 51).  Parker (2005) says, “if schools are to educate for citizenship [then] there can be no democracy without democrats” (p. 347). In order for kids to master democratic ideals they must have the opportunity to practice democracy. Schools then become the venue for developing democratic processes.  <o:p></o:p>

Authentic student voice is critical in creating a democratic school environment.  “All members of the population have equal voice, be they well-informed or not, bright or ignorant, tolerant or hateful” (Althof, 2008, p. 148). The idea of shared decision-making in the life of the school as described in the Just Community concept is truly exciting.  “Educational success can never be warranted, but it is more probable when everyone has a share in the processes taking place” (Althof, 2003, p. 163). Students need to be actively engaged and partners in discussing and designing the way they want their school to be.  Students are able to practice “citizenship within the limits given by the children’s developmental level and by the institutional mission of the school” (Althof, 2003, p. 157). <o:p></o:p>

We need more student voice in our schools.  By increasing student voice, we create meaningful pathways for both academic and social -emotional  growth.  Additionally, by combining student voice with community partnerships we create a real world model for democratic participation, connection, and empowerment.<o:p></o:p>


The Call to Action<o:p></o:p>

Facilitating projects where children can create authentic connection with an area of inquiry will enhance their ability to build a lifelong intellectual mindset. Empowering students with opportunities to have real input on their learning provokes increased success. Additionally, research suggests “Educational success can never be warranted, but it is more probable when everyone has a share in the processes taking place” (Althof, 2003, p. 163)... [and] students need to be actively engaged and partners in discussing and designing the way they want their school to be.” (Wiemann, 2013) When schools can create opportunities to give students voice and ownership in their schools they will have an increased sense of belongingness and competence.  While this may not be possible every day or every school in the district, we encourage everyone to consider at least one day: a day for student voice.<o:p></o:p>


Ask students and faculty what they want to learn and what they can teach.  Suspend district and state mandated curriculum for a day and allow students to suggest, choose and even teach what they want to learn. A day for student voice can allow a variety of opportunities for students as well as educators. First, students will gain the courage to be empowered having been invited to develop curriculum for a day long event based on what they think is important rather than what they are told is. Second, it can develop student-student as well as educator-student relationships based on common interests that would otherwise remain unknown. It is a concrete way to inspire young people to cultivate creativity and confidence. Third, the fostering of a more well developed school community is represented by the notion that adults and youth alike will have the ability to become both teachers and students in these new, democratically designed lessons. <o:p></o:p>


The Method<o:p></o:p>

  • Create a planning committee of students and faculty to lead the planning & execution<o:p></o:p>
  • Committee picks a day and develops expectations <o:p></o:p>
  • Survey students and faculty on (1) thing they’d like to learn and (2) things that students, parents or community members would like to teach<o:p></o:p>
  • Create a master list and allow students to sign up - ranking their first 5 choices<o:p></o:p>
  • Determine classes that will be offered and who will teach them<o:p></o:p>
  • Establish reasonable parameters in terms of time, budget, and size<o:p></o:p>
  • Execute<o:p></o:p>
  • Reflect and celebrate and plan for the next Student Voice Day!<o:p></o:p>



Althof, W. (2003). Implementing 'Just and Caring Communities' in elementary schools: a Deweyan perspective. In W. Veugelers & F. Oser (Eds.), Teaching in democratic and moral education. (pp. 153-172). Bern, Switzerland: Peter Lang.<o:p></o:p>

Althof, W. (2008). The Just Community approach to democratic education: some affinities. In K. Tirri (Ed.), Educating moral sensibilities in urban schools (pp. 146-156). Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.<o:p></o:p>

Parker, W.C. (2005, January). Teaching against idiocy. Phi Delta Kappan, 86(5),<o:p></o:p>


Shields, D.L. (2011, May). Character as the aim of education. Phi Delta Kappan, 92(8), 48-53.<o:p></o:p>


In this challenge, we want to create ideas with young people, not for them. Outline how you’re planning to involve young people or other end-users (parents, teachers, etc) in designing, iterating or testing your idea during the Ideas phase.

Our program is 100% student centered. With the exception of initial planing by staff, the students involved in our program will have total say in what subjects will be taught during the event. Additionally, it will not simply be a mater of selecting courses and having staff teach them. Students who believe they are knowledgeable on certain subjects will have the ability to teach it to anyone who is interested, teachers and students alike. This process of preparation of curriculum and execution will therefore be intimately student centered and will allow for their voices to be hears. There are many attributes to this event that will be beneficial to the school as a community as well. Once students have voted and decided what programs will be offered, there will be, without a doubt, connections drawn between students and staff who did not previously know others were interested. Social groups within the school will be widespread and ready for integration throughout the event seeing as many students will come to the realization that perhaps others who they do not know personally have similar interests. Thus, greater school solidarity can be developed through an avenue of relevant interests. Thus, the event we are proposing will be intimately tied to student voice and will be self directed by students and staff alike.

How might you envision your idea spreading across geographies or cultures so that it inspires young people around the world to cultivate their creative confidence?

Because of the greater diversity among students both within and outside of the school walls, cultural integration of relevant interests will become commonplace within this event. Each student, school, and district will have differing course offers and different interests tied to selected subjects. With this in mind, it is clear that each event will be quite different from the next which will provide each event with its own unique attributes. The greatest accomplishment of this event will be the fact that, because of the generalizability, each event will be designed specifically for the school and community it resides in regardless of size, cultural diversity and place.

What skills, input or guidance would you like to receive from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

Our program can be accomplished with the support of staff and parents within the school. Thus, the necessary financial costs, planning and execution can be done from within the school. It will be the job of school administrators, however, to ensure that this event will indeed help to further the creative confidence of their school and show the value in the program in terms of fostering creative confidence within schools, generating solidarity and providing student with a unique voice that is seen as equitable to that of adults.

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Event Summary - "Student Voice Day"


Join the conversation:

Photo of Dina Gold

Hi Jonathan!

Are you considering any partnerships with non profit organizations? I liken reserving a 'day' to The Ad Council which tends to center the majority of their campaigns around 1 day for students to stand up to fight bullying or a pledge to stop texting & driving, etc. Most of their marketing campaigns are national and therefore gain a ton of scale by citizens, politicians, celebrities, etc.

You might also want to consider not just 1 day but a 10 day pledge or a month long pledge to get student voices heard. Beyond just 1 or 10 days, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) asks countries & presidents to take a pledge that may last many years. Upon reading your idea, it made me think of a lot of this which may or may not help refine your idea. But I hope it keeps the engines turning. ~ D

Photo of DeletedUser


I love this idea. Brilliant. If only such solutions were also available in the Canadian School System.

Photo of Carole

Definitely agree with you Dina, we should think big and make it longer - 10 days - to increase students' ownership!