Student Voice vs Teacher Experience

George Couros, author of the Innovator’s Mindset, had an interesting post on his blog yesterday about teachers valuing students input on their education while balancing teacher experience and expertise. He commented on another post by Dean Shareski who critiqued the idea of fully-personalized learning where the student makes all of the decisions about learning. Simply put, Dean argues that students do not have enough maturity and background knowledge or experience to make all of the decisions and that’s where adults (and teachers) come in.

In completing the Power of Three homework challenge, I worried about how much I actually consider students’ choices when delivering my program. I worry that I control the content of my classes too much. I thought, maybe if I use their interests as the starting point for introducing vocabulary, there would be an increase in engagement. But then I am reminded that my students do not have the understanding and experience that I have in teaching a second language. They couldn’t possibly understand the scaffolding of language structures and concepts required to develop a working knowledge of a second language.

These perspectives confirm that my decision to teach students certain chunks of vocabulary through certain types of language manipulation and repetition drills does not mean that I am ignoring student voice. I am simply trumping their lack of decision-making with my experience card.

The needs that I was thinking about while interviewing students were:

  1. Understanding their level of French, their strengths and areas for improvement
  2. Having opportunities to use the target language with their peers (we speak a lot chorally and they respond in French to me, but it is rare that I hear them conversing with each other in French)
  3. Thinking critically about the language or the culture


By speaking with students, I learned that they might be more encouraged to speak in French more often with one another if they had vocabulary about the topics they discuss (such as Fortnite), and I am happy to spend some lesson time introducing words and phrases that will help them talk to each other about topics like video games. I also want to incorporate more opportunities for questions and answers between peers, to hopefully make it feel more natural for boys to address each other in French.

One boy rated his ability level from 0 (knowing no French at all) to 10 (being a native French speaker) as a 5 or 6. He’s in grade 4, so I’d say that’s quite the confidence in his own abilities! At the same time, that boy also said he could not predict what his marks might be on the upcoming report cards. I’ve been trying to do more self-reflection using the CEFR’s Can-Do Statements so that boys are able to identify which skills they can do and which need more practice (ie: I can ask for help, I can understand simple instructions when spoken slowly, I can introduce myself), but I’m not sure I do enough discussion in class or individual conversations to ensure boys know how they’re being assessed. It can be difficult to meet with each student when you have 170 students and only 30 minute classes.

To close off this post, I will include the three questions for reflection that George mentioned in his post:

  1. What went well today?
  2. Where do I need to grow?
  3. What will I do moving forward to build on my strengths and weaknesses?

I hope to take some time thinking about these during Saturday’s F2F!




Matt Botsford

  1 comment for “Student Voice vs Teacher Experience

  1. Afzal Shaikh
    January 8, 2019 at 1:18 am

    What a great post. Is there a way to use exit ticket to get feedback? Maybe you can get a quick snapshot of their feelings and possibly reach a wider audience. I personally like using socrative.

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