“Let us dare to read, think, speak and write.” — John Adams
The past few weeks have been an emotional roller coaster for many of us. I drove 450 miles to Washington DC for the Woman’s March because I wanted to have a voice in our democracy. As I marched down Independence Ave. I was among 500,000 people that day and as my actual voice chanted and chimed in with the sea of other women I was overwhelmed with the power of participating and in the hope of being heard. It was important for me to have a voice.
An essential role of a citizen in a democracy is to participate in the democracy. In many ways I feel we as citizens have been complacent to this role. Dialogue and inclusiveness are key threads in the fabric of our democratic culture and should be supported and expressed in our schools.Educating young people about the principles of democracy is vital to developing a democratic culture.
It is necessary, therefore, for students to find their voice in their own learning and for schools to model democratic schooling. In a research report by Toshalis & Nakkula, Motivation, Engagement, and Student Voice, motivation, engagement, and voice were identified as the key elements to learner-centered learning. In 21st century schools, students should be moving from simply expressing themselves, consulting with teachers, and participating in class to collaborative partnering and dialogue with others, activism, and leadership toward systematic change. For teachers, facilitating this type of problem solving in the classroom will better prepare our future citizens to lead as problem solvers and decision makers. The more educators give learners choice, control, challenge, and opportunities to collaborate, the more the learner is motivated and engaged in the learning and eventually takes on the leadership role (Toshalis & Nakkula, 2013).
At CCE, the MA Personalized Learning Network is committed to placing students at the center of their learning where they are exercising voice and choice in their education. Its mission is to provide support for the growth of schools in key strategies of personalized learning that are flexible, student-driven, authentic, competency-based, and support dispositions for learning. In a personalized learning environment, students are self-directed learners with a sense of agency about their education; embracing opportunities to exercise voice and choice in the curriculum.
Students are supported in co-developing their individualized learner profiles and access multiple strategies and means of demonstrating learning. Teachers facilitate engaging projects, experiences, and performance-based assessments aligned with both academic standards and skills applicable to the community. Students demonstrate deep rigorous learning through curriculum and assessments that are culturally relevant and embedded in the wider community.
Our democracy is founded on the right and necessity of everyone taking part. The success of any democracy is the genuine partnership among citizens in the affairs of the society. Our schools should reflect this and pedagogy should model democratic principles. To sustain a democracy requires a democratic culture nurtured by our education system. It is time to prepare teachers in personalized learning strategies and allow for student voice and choice; empowering them in their own learning and preparing them to participate in as democratic citizens. I am committed to letting my voice be heard as I witness policy dialogue that may dismantle public education as we know it and encourage teachers to help students find their voice in their own learning.