Pedagogy of Voice

Street Data: A Next-Generation Model for Equity, Pedagogy, and School Transformation is a text I highly recommend! I cannot put the book down and know that it is going to drive much of my coaching and continuous improvement work around equity next year. In this post I want to highlight a section of the book on Pedagogy of Voice. This section connects to my past four posts on feedback.

A pedagogy of voice is an intersection of critical pedagogy and culturally responsive education:

Critical Pedagogy: questioning the status quo using deep thinking, to uncover root causes and to create counternarratives
Culturally Responsive Education: including all aspects of a student’s culture in instruction

With pedagogy of voice, student dialogue is centered in order to promote healing, support growth, empower, and nurture student agency. Instead of grading, compliance, and testing the focus is on observations, interviews, surveys, authentic artifacts, and stories. This is a very simplified definition and I highly encourage reading the text for more background.

There are six rules to guide pedagogy of voice and direct efforts away from compliance. I will provide a brief summary of each below. See Chapter 5 for more information.

  1. Talk Less, Smile More. When a teacher smiles and uses a welcoming tone and nonverbal, a sense of warmth develops. Students feel seen and loved. Teachers talk less (no more than 15 minutes at a time) and offer many opportunities for students to process, reflect, and converse with each other. While peers talk, teachers circulate and ask questions, to model inquiry. “The teacher’s emotional tenor will be at least as important as the content they share.” (Safir and Dugan)
  2. Questions Over Answers. When teachers and students ask authentic questions, students discover their own ideas and resources. This can be done through journaling, KWL charts, small groups, Give One/Get One, conferring, writing an essential question for a unit, etc. Teachers empower students when they ask “What do you think? Who else could you ask? What are different ways to approach that problem?” Teachers support student identity, belonging, mastery and efficacy when they ask about what matters to students, what is getting in the way and will help support, what evidence supports students’ claims, and what ideas/actions students can contribute.
  3. Ritualize Reflection and Revision. Equitable classrooms provide many opportunities for practice and revision, under the support of peers and a teacher coach. Teachers are keen observers of students and know what students are working on and thinking; they model reflection and revision skills and processes. Students are working to improve and see mistakes as a part of learning. Some suggestions on how to incorporate these ideas: begin class with a reflection or turn and talk, use traffic lights to see how well students understand the content, provide time for a weekly reflection (what was learned, what one is proud of, what is challenging) and time to share with a longterm partner, provide graphic organizers and protocols to support peer feedback, and confer with students.
  4. Make Learning Public. Presenting authentic work to an audience provides both relevancy and attention to what an audience needs (who is in the audience, what do they need to hear, and what language and resources can be used to use to convey learning). Presenting can take many forms: a portfolio of work artifacts, rubrics to highlight growth and next steps, oral defenses, and samples showing growth through revisions across time.
  5. Circle Up. Circles convey a sense of community, where every voice is valued equally. They come from Indigenous ceremonies and gatherings and have connections to music (verses in song, the shape of a drum). We can use circles in: Morning Meetings, Socratic discussions, concentric circle activities (two circles face each other to form discussion pairs), fishbowls, huddling around a table to see a science lab or math modeling, literature circles, etc.
  6. Feedback Over Grades. Feedback promotes growth, grades convey evaluation and whether a student is capable or not (a deficit frame). “Wise feedback” empowers students and reduces opportunities for bias or stereotypes.  The structure of wise feedback includes:
    -Describe the type of feedback.
    -Explain the high standards used to frame and organize the feedback. A rubric can support reflection and highlight both growth and next steps.
    -Be a Warm Demander: convey a strong belief that the student has the skills needed.
    Productive feedback is actionable, providing opportunities for redos and retakes. Narrative feedback is powerful for learning and for relationship building.
“Access to a pedagogy of voice and agency
can change a student’s life trajectory.
[It is] like a practice of freedom.” -Safir and Dugan

I look forward to finishing this incredible book and writing more about it in upcoming posts.

Street Data: A Next-Generation Model for Equity, Pedagogy, and School Transformation, Safir and Dugan