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From Listening to Empowering: A Study of High School Principals' Perceptions of Student Voice in Classroom Instruction

Gentile, Susan K. (2015) From Listening to Empowering: A Study of High School Principals' Perceptions of Student Voice in Classroom Instruction. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The purpose of this exploratory study was to discover the meaning that high school principals ascribe to the phenomenon of student voice and how they perceive its role in transforming instruction. Student voice is the term associated with considering students as active participants in educational decision making and change. Giving students choice and control in their education has been linked to increased motivation, engagement, and student achievement. Therefore, providing opportunities for student voice may be an effective approach to transforming instruction in schools of the 21st century. Contemporary accountability movements often target instruction as a way to improve student achievement, yet studies of the effects of student voice on improving pedagogy are few. A need exists to study student voice by exploring how it is perceived and practiced in high school classrooms. Eight high school principals located in western Pennsylvania participated in this study. A series of three interviews was used to place the participant’s experience in context and provide insight into experiences that may have influenced his or her understanding of student voice. Inductive and deductive methods of data analysis were used to identify themes related to the principals’ beliefs about the connection between student voice and effective instruction. The findings show that principals’ understanding of student voice was more complex than the literature indicated. However, a difference was identified between what principals perceived as student voice and how it was practiced. In addition, principals identified that often their “best” teachers do not use student voice practices. Barriers to student voice included accountability movements, fear of vulnerability, and difficulty shifting traditional roles of students and teachers. The need for additional training to increase the presence of student voice was also identified. These findings have notable policy and practice implications. Of most note, is the connection between student voice and Danielson’s Framework for Teaching (2013) used to evaluate instruction in the Teacher Effectiveness System adopted by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Ultimately this study found that principals believed student voice was important to effective instruction, but encouraging student voice was often difficult in environments influenced by mandates of current educational policy.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Gentile, Susan
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Thesis AdvisorKerr, Mary Margaretmmkerr@pitt.eduMMKERR
Committee MemberLongo, R. Gerardlongoj@pitt.eduLONGOJ
Committee MemberTrovato, Charlenetrovato@pitt.eduTROVATO
Committee MemberGunzenhauser, Michaelmgunzen@pitt.eduMGUNZEN
Date: 27 January 2015
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 17 November 2014
Approval Date: 27 January 2015
Submission Date: 1 December 2014
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 205
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Administrative and Policy Studies
Degree: EdD - Doctor of Education
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Student Voice Danielson's Framework for Teaching Teacher Effectiveness Evaluation System Student Engagement High School Reform Communities of Practice
Date Deposited: 27 Jan 2015 20:58
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:25


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