Using student voice – Adding to your ‘evidence’

There are sound pedagogical reasons for collecting and documenting student voice.
  • to find out whether a (new) way of teaching is making any difference
  • to find out how students are adjusting to a new school, year level or teacher
  • to find out why test results were better or worse than expected
  • to get ideas about what might make things better for the student, teacher, class or school.

Links to the New Zealand Curriculum

Collecting student voice helps you to find out about the impact of your teaching, so it fits well with teaching as inquiry. It can also help teachers to co-construct work if students are consulted about what, and how, they learn.

Case study

In Makoura College, a low decile rural school, student voice was collected in Term 1 and at the end of Term 4 as part of work to do with the Secondary Literacy Project. The team for the project consisted of the AP, the Literacy Leader, four Year 9 and 10 core teachers and Accent Learning’s secondary literacy adviser.
In Term 1 we wanted to find out how the Year 9s were settling in. In Term 4 we wanted to find out how the year had panned out for these students, especially with regard to literacy. In Term 4 the students did another reading comprehension test, similar to one they completed in Term Two and the results were very encouraging. Almost all of the students made significant gains (see text box). 

Student response to test results

We then decided to interview some more students, especially those who had made the largest shifts in the reading comprehension tests, to ask them why they thought they had made such good gains. The students’ answers to the question about what had been different in the two test situations were surprising. At the start of each interview they were shown their test results from mid-year and then the end of the year. They were very interested in this data.

What do you think has caused such a big difference in the reading test results?

Student 1: This time I know the answers. Beginning the test was easy this time. (Prompt: What did you feel?) I became more confident.
Student 2: I reckon it’s Whaea X – she just teaches us what we need to know.
Student 3: I was really concentrating – actually doing the test properly.
Student 4: I didn’t try in the first test. The school made my attitude change. (Prompt: What about the school?) I can’t be specific – just the whole school.
Student 5: This time I could read more.
Student 6: I have been reading at home, R.L Stein – horrors … I could do more in the test this time. First time I just did the answers. I read it carefully and then did the answers.
Student 7: First test, I didn’t know what it meant – I guessed. Now I understand – I read it.
Student 8: (Score went down minimally from a high base so this question was not asked.)
Student 9: It wasn’t too hard but not too easy.
Student 10: In the first test I was bored – didn’t want to do it. It was still boring this time but I could do some of the questions – I knew some of the answers. My attitude has changed.
Student 11:  I have read more this year. I have started to read at home every night before I go to bed.
But you don’t always get the answers you would like. Many students could not identify anything that teachers had done to help them.

Can you think of things your teachers did to help you with reading?

Student 1: No.
Student 2: Mr. X puts it on a Powerpoint because then more people focus – they don’t get put off by how long it is – he breaks it up.
Student 3: Do heaps of work – no ESoL support here. I read at home a little bit.
Student 4: My social studies and science teacher explained how you break up words – like ‘sub’. I have been reading more lately, I re-read the last Harry Potter book. I have been reading girls’ teenage books. 
Student 5: No – I do reading in my own time at home.
Student 6: Don’t know – I have done more reading this year. I sometimes read at home. Interesting books. Paul Jennings books.
Student 7: They sent me away on a special course and stuff, extension with reading and writing.
Student 8: No.
Student 9: She’s helped me read through it – if I get stuck she tells me what it means. I did more reading with Whaea X.
Student 10: No. – It was just going to class and being on time.
Student 11: I’m not too sure – we have read more this year. In English we read a lot. I like books about war – non-fiction.
It’s really interesting and will be useful data for ERO ... it is clear there have been gains in both raw scores and attitudes. – Tom Hullena, Principal, Makoura College


  • Focus groups can work well, especially with senior students, but in Years 9 and 10 the students seem to answer more frankly if they are in a one-to-one interview.
  • Share/explain the purpose of the interview with the students.
  • Share data with students if you are talking about tests.

Useful questions

During lesson observations

What are you learning about today?
What is your next step? How do you know what it is?
How are you going to know you have done a good job?

Focus on teaching and learning

What are some things teachers do that help you with your learning?
What are some things that teachers do that are not so helpful?
If you were a coach, what advice would you give your teachers to help them do a better job for you?

Focus on school culture/climate

How does it feel to be Maori at this college?
Do you feel that your Samoan culture is valued here? In what ways?

Next steps

If this story has caught your interest and you would like to find out more about collecting student voice or information about the Secondary Literacy Project please contact:
Phone: (04) 463 9610
School Level:
Educational Area: