Engage Student Voice

In this phase of the project, the Pathways to Results team decides how to engage students' voices. The voices of students are critical to the areas of adjustment, transition, retention, persistence, and completion. They affect the bottom line in curbing attrition, collegiate dissatisfaction, and climate woes. To be clear, student voice refers to the values, opinions, beliefs, perspectives, and cultural backgrounds of individual students and groups of students in a school, and to instructional approaches and techniques that are based on student choices, interests, passions, and ambitions (Great School Partnerships, 2013).

The degree to which educators can may make unilateral decisions with little or no input from students has long been challenged and varies across institutional types and their respective communities. The student voice in Pathways to Results is critical to understanding how to best support the students being impacted by the problem identified by the PTR team. Therefore, it is important that team members talk to students and talk to the students who are affected by the inequitable outcomes identified by the Pathways to Results team.

Student voice is about employing pedagogy, programming, and practices that are informed by students, not merely informing students without engaging them in their educational pursuits. It is about listening and actively hearing students, in an effort to truly foster the output of students' thoughts and weave their individual and collective perspectives into actionable steps that positively influence the learning context inside and outside of the classroom. Doing so will subsequently contribute to a conducive campus climate for learning. There are three assumptions behind engaging student voice:

  1. Student feedback will have a transformative impact on institutional and teaching practices.
  2. Students will be engaged if they are able to participate in key decisions about the context and content of their learning.
  3. Students will be empowered and gain agency by sharing their experiences and influencing authentic change at their agencies.

When done right, including student voices in the body of collected data supports stronger alignment between the root causes of outcome inequities and selected educational improvements. Improving a Path to Equity: Engaging Student Voices further outlines the rationale for including student voice in the Pathways to Results process.

There are seven conditions that must happen to effectively engage students' voices (Fielding, 2001):

Student voice can be engaged through a variety of different formats such as dialogue, storytelling, and creative expression. But regardless of the format or formats selected, it is essential that Pathways to Results teams ensure they engage students’ voices within the community of students who are impacted by the problem identified by PTR. Here are methods Pathways to Results teams can use to capture student voice:

  • Town halls and listening events
  • Interviewing or co-interviewing
  • Focus groups
  • Committee representation or other student leadership roles
  • Concept or process-mapping activities
  • Intergroup dialogues
  • Art exhibits
  • Collecting stories or experiences
  • Spoken-word events
  • Verbal or written logs
  • Collages, photography, or other art mediums
  • Plays, skits, or role-playing
  • Co-curricular activities
  • Creating spaces for anonymous feedback
  • Surveys

Read Student Voices: Bringing Meaning to the Numbers to learn how student voice influenced the Pathways to Results process at Black Hawk College.


  • Fielding, M. (2010). The radical potential of student voice: Creating spaces for restless encounters. International Journal of Emotional Education, 2(1), 61-73.