Student Teacher Voice - Listening to the future teacher (part 2): The importance of having a constructive and continuous dialogue with students
The March online ITE Forum continued its dialogue between universities, industry, policymakers and student teachers, on the role of the student teacher as a university ‘customer', following up on the previous discussion from 21st February 2019.
Leading the discussion were Dr Conor Galvin (University College Dublin), Peter Claxton (SMART Technologies), and Dr Eli-Marie Danbolt Drange (University of Agder).
Sharing reflections on the video and resources published prior to the online meeting, all agreed that the process of engaging student teachers to give feedback and shape their learning is linked to the institutional culture and should be built in as part of an ongoing process. Instead, as is more common, simply asking students to express their opinion or to provide feedback as part of evaluation at the end of courses. Dr Alessia Signorelli (University of Perugia) and Vesna Belogaska (IRIS Connect) argued that engagement with students pays off to everyone, it empowers the students and makes them more accountable and engaged.
Dr Eli-Marie Danbolt flagged the importance of developing the skills in student teachers of giving feedback and how and what to reflect on. This led to the key discussion point: at what stage to bring in student teachers' ‘voice' – at the start of their course, or after some experience at university when they can give other types of feedback, such as course design. Should we treat students, depending on their experience, differently in terms of the importance of their voice? Recognising that, the feedback coming from younger students might differ in content and quality from that provided by more established students who have attended the university courses for longer and who are accustomed to the system and possess the necessary soft skills and have more realistic expectations. Dr Conor Galvin referred to UN article 12 convention on the rights of the child – the right to express views, and the right to have them given due weight – and said that this right applied even more to adults.
Thus, the question remained: How and when do we offer the students the right to express their views? All of the participants agreed that having a continuous dialogue with students is very important. This dialogue should serve to create a lifelong learner habit and provide room for the ability to reflect on one's own learning and articulating where one stands and where to go next. This way, students would be aware about their needs and could indicate the direction they wish to take.