Open Exhibition for Student Voice

Show them how their voice is unique and powerful and they will start using it more. Then point them out into the world and let go!

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We see students finding incentives all the time, “will this be on the test?”, “When am I going to need to know this, you know, in the real world?”, “Is this for a grade?”. Students are not likely to engage in civic change if they don't see an incentive that benefits them. 

Imagine for a moment a world in which kids come to school excited to pick up where they left off yesterday. Students who decide that studying a subject they don't enjoy is worth their time because it will help them to solve a pressing issue they care about. Now imagine that pressing issue is some civic project in their community. If we want our students to engage in their work this way and reach out and make a difference we need to first show them that what they are doing is worth more than a grade. We need to show them that failure is only the first step in figuring out a better way and that they have the mind needed to find a solution.

If the end product of everything we do as teachers to engage students is in some form published and critiqued by a members of a community our students respect, we will likely see them more engaged in their work. If the sum of their work is not to pass a test but instead impress their role model, we might see them more engaged. If young minds are shown that they have a voice worth listening to, they may start to use it more and believe in its power and importance.

Below is how I propose we start.

This came from my Google for Education Certified Innovator project. David Lee and Jessica Loucks are co-authors to the document I pulled this from.

3. Open Source Publication

Open Source Publication (OSP) is the act of making stakeholder content available to authentic audiences and the general public in an interactive and meaningful way. The term “open source” comes from the idea of open source software, computer software whose source code is available to the public for modification and improvement. This idea can be adapted to the publishing of student work. The public audience can learn from the information presented by the stakeholder, use it to further progress an argument or idea, or extend and improve the information with additional, in-depth detail. When stakeholders understand that their work is being used by the public, it increases their motivation to create quality content. OSP can involve stakeholders presenting their work online, at a public event, or to an authentic audience of “expert mentors” who have experience in the given topic or field. Providing stakeholders with an authentic audience boosts engagement and helps them understand that what they are learning at school is valuable and is connected to the real world. OSP gives stakeholders the opportunity to connect and collaborate with a broader audience, to be given specialized feedback, and to demonstrate their ability to apply content knowledge and skills in meaningful ways.

Actionable Statements

  • Educate students to present their work online, at a public event, or to an authentic audience to demonstrate their ability to apply content knowledge and skills in a meaningful way.
  • Connect students with “expert mentors” who have experience with the content or the field, and provide students with valuable, technical feedback.
  • Facilitate stakeholders to create a digital portfolio that contains a collection of their best work; to not only showcase their learning, but to reflect on their learning process, their growth, and why their work is important and relevant.
  • Educate students to communicate their knowledge and skills through frequent opportunities of oral presentations.

Concepts, methods, and tools for actionable statements: authentic audience, student reflection, student portfolio.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Les McBeth

Hi David! Great idea, I like how you're thinking about making student's work relevant. For getting students engaged in civic issues, could you start by doing an investigation? Check out The Center for Urban Pedagogy and their "Urban Investigations" model -

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