Reflections on Voice

voice \ ˈvȯis  \ noun –  wish, choice, or opinion openly or formally expressed

Without motivation, there is no push to learn; without engagement there is no way to learn; and without voice, there is no authenticity in the learning. For students to create new knowledge, succeed academically, and develop into healthy adults, they require each of these experiences.

-Toshalis and Nakkula

Two of the Keys to Voice found in the COVA Book are:

  • Voice is the oral or written manifestation of a learner’s choice and ownership oftheir authentic learning opportunity.
  • Without choice and ownership there will be no authentic voice.

Dr. Thibodeaux states in her COVA Learner’s Mindset blog post that “rather than allow the learner’s voice to be continually quenched by our content and standards-based system the authors argue that we need to create a learning environment that helps to nurture learner’s voice.” Voice is one elements of the COVA approach and CSLE (creating significant learning environments) that must be intertwined with all of the other elements. Students need each of these elements to support greater learning.

One of my biggest takeaways of the Lamar Digital Learning and Leading program is that I am finding my own voice. I never thought that I had much to say. But I have recognized at work that I often feel frustrated when I’m not able to easily express my opinions. For example, frequently in meetings, everyone is trying to share their ideas all at once. It can be hard to find a good jumping in spot, particularly if you have a quiet voice and masks make it harder to be heard. I am learning that it takes me longer to formulate my ideas. But once I have those ideas, I am able to express them well in writing.

Student voice in learning goes beyond being able to express themselves with words. It includes having a say in what and how the learning occurs. This video from the Vermont Agency of Education describes an excellent example of studnent voice in curriculum planning.


Flipgrid is a free, fun and innovative digital tool which allows teachers to empower the student voice. This article is a great introduction for teachers that want to learn more about Flipgrid. I created a Flipgrid to have the opportunity to practice using the tool and to give visitors the opportunity to sound off on their ideas about student voice. There are only a few responses so far, but I welcome anyone that is interested in responding.


This Edutopia article provides some Simple Ways to Promote Student Voice in the Classroom. Some tips are to have a welcoming ritual, plan consistent opportunites for voice, and to use student feedback.


Barbara Bray explains in her Rethinking Learning article that “Voice gives students a chance to share their opinions about something they believe in.” She outlines the work of Eric Toshalis and Michael Nakulla to describe the various levels of student voice.

Finding one’s voice through authentic learning opportunities enables learners to transform their own learning by deepening their understanding, grounding their thinking, developing a sense of purpose and personal significance. This all contributes to the self-efficacy of the individual which can also influence the collective-efficacy.

Harapnuik & Thibodeaux

Bray, B. (2018, September 9). Spectrum of Voice: Developing Self-Regulation, Autonomy, and Agency. Rethinking Learning. https://barbarabray.net/2018/09/09/spectrum-of-voice-developing-self-regulation-autonomy-and-agency/.

Beblow, V. (2018, October 26). Empowering Student Voice with Flipgrid. Microsoft EDU. https://educationblog.microsoft.com/en-ca/2018/10/empowering-student-voice-with-flipgrid/.

Duckworth, S. (2018, September 9). Spectrum of Voice. Sylvia Duckworth. https://sylviaduckworth.com/.

Harapnuik, D., Thibodeaux , T., & Cummings, C. (2018). Cova: Choice, Ownership and Voice through Authentic Learning (Vol. .9). Creative Commons.

Pandolpho, B. (2020, March 10). Simple Ways to Promote Student Voice in the Classroom. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/article/simple-ways-promote-student-voice-classroom.

Thibodeaux, T. Learner’s Mindset….. Learners Mindset. http://tilisathibodeaux.com/wordpress/?page_id=538.

Toshalis, E., & Nakkula, M. (2012). Motivation, Engagement, and Student Voice. Students at the Center. https://studentsatthecenterhub.org/resource/motivation-engagement-and-student-voice/.

Vermont Agency of Education. (2017). Student Voice and Choice. https://youtu.be/MVRCEq5jZkU.

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