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HomeAfricaWhat students can teach the teachers about learning

What students can teach the teachers about learning

With twenty years working as a school leader in the Netherlands, Egypt and Thailand, Annelies Hoogland has been immersed in a global perspective of thinking and learning.

As a Leader for Learning, Hoogland orchestrated opportunities for growth and change through a learning vision, talking with students about their learning, and actively seeking out opportunities to connect and collaborate with colleagues around student thinking data.

Additionally, she ensured that school improvement processes rested on research and practices that showed evidence of how to improve learning.

What became most evident to Hoogland throughout these experiences was the power of student voice, particularly their stories of learning, which empowered teachers to think differently about their teaching and transformed the work of leadership.

Hoogland says the promotion of and making visible the ongoing thinking and learning in students can drive a story to understanding the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ of improving student learning.

“In my experience, the most influential evidence of learning is what happens in classrooms on a daily basis,” Hoogland told The Educator. “As a school leader, I would visit classrooms to gather student [voice] learning data.”

Hoogland says the evidence comes directly from individual students as they describe their thinking and learning experience within the classroom context to questions such as, ‘What are you learning right now?’; ‘Is this new learning? How do you know?’; ‘Is this learning difficult, easy or just right? What makes you say that?’; ‘What helps you learn in this class? What gets in the way?’; and ‘Are you enjoying this learning? Can you tell me more?’.

“When asking students these types questions, they are required to both think about and articulate their learning experiences,” Hoogland said. “This qualitative data would be shared with the teacher, providing vital informative feedback about how their students are learning or not learning.”

Hoogland said the only questions asked of the teacher is, ‘How do you make sense of this data?’ and ’What might you do next to improve learning?’.

“By consistently gathering and using student voice, we can move away from educator ‘assumptions’ to a more authentic form of evidence,” she said.

“Intentionally listening to student thinking and learning, educators receive opportunities to continually reflect on and intentionally develop their next steps to improve learning through pedagogical practices, as well as school systems and structures.”