In Episode 19 of the METC podcast, I sit down with Erin Lawson from the Orchard Farm School District to learn about Student PD.  We had an awesome conversation on what it means to have a Professional Development Day for students!  This “Conference” was completely driven by the students!  Below is some information about why Student Voice and Choice is important and some great ways to possibly get started within your school/classroom.  


Be sure to connect with Erin to learn more about this amazing event!


Episode's Guest:

Erin Lawson - Orchard Farm School District - District Technology Coach



Why Student Voice and Choice?

“What matters more than the aspiration is the execution.  Universal aspirations are swell, but students differ in their abilities, gifts, and needs.  Not every student will go to college.” (Frederick Hess in Educational Leadership magazine, 2016)

  • In order to truly prepare our students, 21st century skills, soft skills, college and career ready..whatever you want to call it...we must move the responsibility from the adult to the student. Teachers are-consciously or unconsciously-trained to have students be dependent on us for their learning.  This causes a ceiling for their learning.  
  • Encourage students to have a strong, positive mindset and give them opportunities to explore and identify areas of interest.  This will motivate them to perform.
  • Personalization is KEY to have success with student voice and choice.
  • Non-cognitive skills must be taught in order to achieve a “well-rounded” education. 2015 State of St. Louis Workforce study had Student PD all over it! (collaboration skills, seeing the world through other people’s eyes, public speaking, interview skills, strong handshake etc.)
  • Teachers need to learn how to speak and act by FIRST learning to listen to students. Student voice should always have a role in teacher preparation of future lessons.
  • 2014 Annual Student Survey of Academic Experience: Top 3 culprits of classroom boredom...1. Assignments are just busywork. 2. There’s no variety in what we do from day to day.  3. The teacher talks too much.
  • Teachers should be doing more listening than talking, following than guiding, and more negotiating than dictating.


How can teachers implement this into their classrooms?

Student PD- whole school, grade level, classroom

  • Offer CHOICE
  • Before starting a unit, introduce it. Relate it personally to your students.  Ask your students what they think would be the best way to learn the content. Are there any projects they can imagine would work well with this unit?  Design the unit around student input.  After the unit, ask your students if there was anything else they wanted to learn about before moving on to the next unit.  

    • Here are some things we will be learning about.  Which three topics sound most interesting to you?  Explain why you chose each one.
    • On a scale of 0-5, how interesting do you find what we’re working on right now? Explain your rating.
    • What might make you more interested in the topic we’re studying?
    • Given a choice tomorrow, would you rather learn about this topic by watching a video, reading about it, or listening to a podcast?
  • Curriculum and projects spring from relevant questions and issues that teachers and students are passionate about.
  • Have a group of students be the “mentors” for the teacher.  Meet with those students to get student feedback on how your class/lessons are going.  
  • Have your students discuss what they believe “good teaching” looks like.  
  • Genius Hour- Once a week for one hour of your class, let students work on a “capstone” or project of their own interests.  Teach them how to reach out by email/Twitter to people in the community that could help guide them.  
  • Build teacher-student and student-student relationships.  Start with a survey:
    • What do you enjoy spending time on?
    • What do you struggle with? Explain.
    • If you could invite anyone to a dinner party, whom would you invite and why?
    • What’s the best story you’ve ever seen or heard (from a book, article, movie, TV show, friend, or family member)?
    • What does your “space” look like, feel like where you are able to relax the best?
    • When have you felt proud of yourself, inside or outside of school?
  • Pose these questions to students at the beginning of the school year: Who do you want to be?  What do you want to be?  Record student aspirations in SISK12.  


State of St. Louis Workforce 2015 -


Technology Tools for Student Voice and Choice

  • Google tools for collaboration (Google Forms for feedback)
  • Google Sites
  • Blogger
  • FlipGrid
  • TodaysMeet
  • Twitter chats with a class hashtag
  • Padlet


Differentiate-Personalize-Engage students-Make it relevant for their future

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