Pedagogies of student voice

Sara Bragg, Helen Manchester

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For many years, the concept of ‘student voice’ was seen as a marginal issue for educators, the preserve of a passionate, dedicated minority. The literature on voice had to persuade and convince as much as to analyze, whilst the ‘emancipatory’, democratic intentions and outcomes of practitioners were often taken for granted. Now, however, ‘student voice’ is being endorsed and elaborated across a remarkably broad spectrum of contemporary educational thinking, policymaking and provision. It therefore risks being caught up in generalized denunciations of ‘neoliberal’ trends in education. Yet both excessive optimism and undue suspicion represent inadequate responses. ‘Student voice’ is enacted, brought into being, rather than immanent or pre-existing: the term designates a diverse range of practices that require careful, situated interpretation if we are to understand their meanings and effects, and this paper attempts to provide an example of such an analytical approach. It draws on research into how one organization, the flagship English ‘creative learning’ programme Creative Partnerships, attempted to ‘put young people at the heart’ of its work. The paper takes a broader frame than is often the case in student voice literature, locating Creative Partnerships within national government policy and regional and local contexts, and attending to the multiple, sometimes conflicting, practices, processes and sites through which ‘youth voice’ was produced. It analyses the subjectivities, self-imaginings, capacities and narratives that ‘voice’ practices offered to teachers, students, artists and others involved. Through such interpretive frames, the paper hopes to produce more complex ‘ways of seeing’ student voice projects, better able to acknowledge their ambivalent effects in reconfiguring educational power relations and processes, but also more attuned to moments of creativity, surprise and difference of the kind that might make a difference to schooling.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-163
Number of pages21
JournalRevista De Educacion
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2012


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