SSAT NC15 – Dr Russ Quaglia – Student voice and aspirations: the key to unlocking schools’ potential

ssat national conference 2015

Listening and responding to student voice can help young people gain self-worth, engagement and purpose, both in school and in life.

Dr Russ Quaglia appreciates the demanding tasks faced by teachers and school leaders in the UK and USA: he has been working with educators in this country for more than 25 years. He well appreciates that the achievement gap is ‘a symptom of a whole lot of other gaps out there,’ many of which are to do with society as a whole or with each student’s home background.

Yet there is much that schools can do, and he cited a survey of over one million students in the US and UK which showed how great the scope is for more effective student voice to give young people a sense of self-worth, engagement and purpose.

Self-worth: the problem as he sees it is that ’kids don’t believe they have the ability,’ which inhibits their learning. The survey showed that only 51% of students believe that teachers ‘care what I’m about at school’; and 46% agreed ‘I’m a valued member of the school community.’

Kids don’t believe they have the ability

Engagement: 43% of the students surveyed said school was boring. Only 44% agreed ‘my classes help me understand what’s happening in my everyday life;’ even worse, said Quaglia, in their later years at school that proportion dropped to just 17%. This is crucial because engaged pupils are 16 times more motivated to learn, he said.

Purpose: again, the survey produced a damning response, with only 34% agreeing ‘my teachers know my hopes and dreams.’ Of all the survey results, Quaglia believed this was the most significant: ‘if you take one thing from this conference, it’s this: kids who believe their teachers know their hopes and dreams are 18 times more likely to be motivated to learn.’

He offered some advice on how to achieve these aims, including:

  • Take time to reflect, and appreciate why you work in a school
  • Never stop listening to and learning from students
  • Never forget our own past is not our students’ future
  • Let students know every day that they matter to you
  • Be moral
  • Embrace possibilities
  • Every day, do something that scares you, and lets people know you’re alive
  • Be an explorer more than a teacher
  • Realise students’ creative and innovative power
  • Believe in your school/college, your students and yourself.

Finally, he suggested:

never forget that wonderful surprises are just waiting to happen. All our hopes and dreams are well within our reach.

SSAT National Conference 2015

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View photos from the event here.

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SSAT National Conference 2015 – day two

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SSAT NC15 – Students from the SSAT network – Are schools getting in the way of education?

8 December 2015