By: Brandon Wiley
For the past several years, I’ve had the unique opportunity as the Director of Asia Society’s International Studies Schools Network, to interact with schools throughout the United States and other countries. Each time I visit a new school or have an opportunity to learn about different educational approaches, I’m convinced that the key perspective or voice that should be sought is that of our “clients” – the student. I’ve made the case previously that if you really want to know what happens in a school, the most honest and insightful perspective comes from the students.
Over the course of the next week, I’m exited to learn more about the Finnish education system from the “inside.” Having read about their high performing education system for several years, our team will attempt to collect different perspectives and experiences from teachers, administrators and community members. For my part though, I will be attempting to focus on the role student engagement and voice has played in shaping the learning experience in schools throughout Finland.
One of my interests in joining this research team is to learn more about the learning experience of students in Finnish schools. In particular, I’m interested in learning more about the ways schools engage students in things such as decision-making, school governance, curriculum design and assessment of learning. By discussing their perceived role and position in the school, I would hope to ascertain to what extent students believe they have a voice and influence in their learning. Inherent in my study will be an exploration of student-teacher roles and relationships and what formal or informal school structures contribute to the development of those relationships. Much has been written about the trust and autonomy Finnish schools provide teachers, but I would like some firsthand examples of how that autonomy extends to students having freedom or involvement in the learning process.
Some of the questions I’m hoping to research this week include:
- What do students in Finnish schools see as their main role or purpose in the education system?
- In what ways do schools provide students a voice or ownership of their learning?
- How does the learning experience of students in Finnish classrooms differ from their peers in the United States?
- How do Finnish students characterize the relationships between student and teacher?
- In what ways do students believe their schools prepare them for life beyond high school?
What other questions would you like me to add to my inquiry around student voice and engagement?