Applying Voice Inclusive Practice

Inclusive Philosophy

Fundamental to the success of Voice-Inclusive Practice is the teacher’s alignment with a philosophy of voice inclusion that does not rely on strategies that are hierarchical and driven by a need for control and power.

Communicate and encourage dialogue with children routinely and regularly so that it becomes embedded in practice, rather than exception.

Attend to children’s perspectives in a meaningful and action-focused rather than tokenistic or superficial way.

Allow children the freedom to participate at a level of their choosing, including not participating at all. Silence is also an expression of voice.

Embrace a range of accessible communication technologies and ensure the inclusion of all, not just students with the most to say, or with the loudest voices, or good behaviour records.

Read more about how this was done in the Wellbeing Matters Project.

Strategies for success

Avoid tokenism

For voice inclusive practice to be successful, educators must not feel undue pressure to conform to a consultation process they ultimately do not believe in. This is where approaches to children’s participation can become tokenistic and counter to the intent of engaging with children’s perspectives in the first place. It can also lead to negativity between children and adults who feel they are being forced to conform to an externally imposed mandate.

Overcoming resistance

Any new initiative requires support in implementation. Even if you/your school have been incorporating student perspectives for quite some time, there are always additional ways that this can be strengthened. After all, every child and every cohort is different, each with their own unique and individual perspectives, so a one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to be sustainable longer term. Staff AND students would benefit from support and training to find their voice and to work collaboratively on ways that they can develop authentic partnerships with one another for ongoing, meaningful engagement in the school context.

If an individual does not hold an underlying philosophy of inclusion, then at least an appreciation of children’s capacities may be achieved. This could be through access to empirical demonstration and research such as some of the resources available on this site, reading the UNCRC in detail, and reinforcing the mandates that assure that teacher authority and responsibility is not threatened by including the voice of children. Some may find it useful to think about in terms of ensuring that students have an equal ‘seat at the table’ as other stakeholders; teachers, leadership, parents, community, rather than one stakeholder’s view automatically overriding the other. The caveat here however is that it also means that a teacher’s views and opinions about the matter, do not automatically override the views and perspectives of students. Genuine collaborative engagement between staff and students require ongoing consultation and discussion about matters of shared importance and contention. It may not always be a quick process, but it is worthwhile, with greater benefits beyond simply ‘being heard’.

Read more about how one school responded to the issue of ‘buy-in of staff and students’ (pp. 17-20).

Embed into practice

Voice inclusive practice should embed the child’s voice into the ecology of regular teaching and learning activities. It is important that inclusion of student perspectives does not become a ‘tick box’ exercise. The examples provided are an entry point for initial integration of participatory inclusion that should be further developed and embedded in practice in other ways over time. Voice inclusive practice should not be a burden to implement. It is not an activity for selective inclusion or only given as a reward for students. Voice inclusive practice acknowledges the importance of all stakeholders’ voices and considers each equally as an essential part of the education process.

Examples of everyday Voice Inclusive Practices

Daily class meetings, shared media selection, student feedback surveys, extension activities, teacher reviews, class blogs, social skills activities, classroom arrangement, in-class activity timetables, daily curriculum lessons, technology and media choices, classroom rules and expectation development, and academic performance reviews.

Communicate Openly

Keep students (and staff) in the loop continually and provide a platform for open communication between students and staff. Continual communication is important even if nothing is happening straight away or some of the actions resulting require additional time to implement. Showing students that they have been heard and their perspectives considered is an important step. This helps to show students that their views are important and being taken seriously.  There also needs to be ongoing opportunities for meaningful engagement embedded into all aspects of school life, not just those that adults consider important.

Allow Time

Students should be given time to develop, consider and express their views and opinions. It is possible that their views may change or evolve over time.  Moment in time consultation will provide an initial response, but this does not necessarily provide the student’s full perspective.

Be Reflective

To effect a pedagogy that reflects voice inclusive practice, one must be inclined towards a philosophy of student voice and hold confidence in the child’s capacity, autonomy, power, and agency to express their view. Read more

It is critical that teachers develop and reflect on their personal philosophy of teaching, how they view students, their role as a teacher, and their view of how students learn prior to attempting voice inclusive practice to maximise the likelihood of its sustainability.

Such voice-inclusive consciousness helps teachers to ‘see’ learning situations differently and identify the opportunities to consult with children throughout their decision-making processes.


Don’t give up!