Negotiating the curriculum: Realizing student voice

Jeroen Bron, Catherine Bovill, Eddie Van Vliet, Wiel Veugelers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Many teachers recognise the desirability of involving students in the planning of lessons and units to provide them with responsibility and autonomy. However, not many teachers give students a voice in planning lessons/future learning because it is seen as hard and the barriers can be significant. Moreover, there is a lack of clear practical strategies as to how to open up the curriculum to student input. Yet there are many benefits to being open to student input, especially in Civics and Citizenship education contexts, where student voice, the modelling of democratic processes and discourse, and notions of empowerment are so central. Although our exemplification is drawn here from a Dutch curriculum context, it also draws upon the analysis of the work of Australian scholars by Bron, Bovill and Veugelers (in press). Therefore, we are confident that the ideas that we share here are equally applicable in Australian education contexts and classrooms. Students making decisions on their curriculum (in other words, negotiating their curriculum with their peers and teacher) is an example of student voice (Bron et al., 2016; Bron & Veugelers, 2014). It is our hypothesis that by their participation and negotiation, students practise and thus develop democratic qualities. Based on ideas from the student voice discourse, we argue that students offer unique perspectives (Cook-Sather, 2006) on the curriculum and that their involvement adds to the relevance of, and engagement in their learning (Bron & Veugelers, 2014). In this paper we present a method for negotiating the curriculum consisting of principles, aims and an instrument for use in classrooms. The instrument gives structure and direction to the negotiation process in classroom situations. We establish a theoretical basis for the broader aims of this approach and identify the skills which students employ when they negotiate their curriculum. To further highlight the value of negotiating the curriculum, we compare these skills and activities with the aims outlined in the domain of citizenship education and in the 21st century skills literature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-54
Number of pages16
JournalThe Social Educator
Volume34
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016

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