Saturday, March 20, 2010

Working as a Team: children and teachers learning from each other

Peacock, Allison (2001). Working as a Team: children and teachers learning from each other. FORUM 43(1), 49-53.


In this article, Peacock explores the implications of a partnership based approach to research between teachers and students. In this approach, students would work with teachers to identify problems facing their school, devise methods/ attempts in which to remedy those problems, and then carry out research (much the same way in which "action research" takes place) including data finding and analysis to study their lasting effects. In essence, Peacock's main objective is to increase opportunities for student voice.

Wheatcroft Primary School was the first to pilot this program. For example, students complained of hunger during class. In response to the problem the "student/ teacher research team" at Wheatcroft devised a "tuck shop" of snacks which could be accessed at any point during the lesson. The "research" team then studied the affect of this shop on student motivation and attentiveness. They found that student engagement increased dramatically.

Other opportunities for student voice include "feedback boxes" placed around the school and a "bully box" on the playground. In the "feedback boxes" students can write notes or suggestions for teachers and in the "bully box," students can address issues of harassment on the playground.

These ideas amongst others were all devised during weekly "assemblies" where students all take part in problem solving related to issues affecting the school.


This article is relevant and intriguing on several levels. First, as a matter of principal, it raises awareness of the importance of creating equivocation in the relationship between teacher and student. It serves to offer insight as to why there seems to be so much disconnect between what curriculum the teacher deems most relevant compared to that of their pupils.

The article also includes several examples for how student voice has affected the overall management of the school. It includes numerous transcriptions from interviews conducted with actual pupils. The questions are not loaded or leading, giving students the opportunity to answer authentically and in accordance to their observations.

Where the article comes short is in its failure to explore the platforms in which "student/ teacher" communication takes place. It mentions school wide assemblies and meetings without extrapolating on how those forums are conducted. It is mainly a composition of excerpts from students regarding their overall viewpoint of Wheatcroft.

From the text:

"Our school has been focussing on children’s voice,
which means teachers listen to children’s ideas. Most
people think that many things have improved, e.g. the
playground, bullying and lessons."

From another student: "A memory of our Playground Day when I built a camp
will stay in my head forever. I think that all the
children from the nursery to Year 6 think that the day
was one of the best days at Wheatcroft."

"I think that the pupil voice project is so important
because if the pupils did not get a say in anything it
would only be what the teachers think is right. With
pupil voice you can tell the teachers what IS right for
you – and do better!"


I am eager and enthusiastic to incoroporate student voice in my classroom, however I have several lingering questions:

Once student voice is delivered, what platforms exist for student/ teacher interaction to address and solve those problems?

Can we really trust students to carry out the superfluous research such study necessitates?

How do I empower student voice without them "overpowering" my voice?

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