Speak Up

Student Voice

Andrew Pawluch

Student Success Leaders Symposium: Student Andrew Pawluch (OSTA)

Transcript <a href="/eng/students/speakup/andrewPawluch.html#Andrew" title="http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/students/speakup/andrewPawluch.html#Andrew" style="display:none;">Transcript</a>

Transcript for student video clip for website – Andrew Pawluch
From Student Success Leaders Symposium, June 12, 2008

Andrew Pawluch: My name is Andrew Pawluch and I'm thrilled and very grateful to have the opportunity to share the student perspective with you today.

On May 12, I did have the opportunity to participate in a student forum, and I can attest to the fact that the dialogue was fruitful and the feedback was meaningful, and in bringing together sixty perspectives that many ideas were shared. However, there were common underlying ideas and it is those that I wish to share with you today.

When thinking about student engagement, what did students say they wanted? Students said they wanted to see purposeful learning. They wanted to see active and dynamic learning where they have opportunities, where they have choice. Where they have a balance between academic knowledge, but also life skills that it is tied to their lives, that it is tied to society; that they understand its purpose.

They said they want opportunities to be involved, opportunities to contribute. They said they want opportunities for self-directed learning. That engagement can take many forms, but the highest and truest form is when it is self-directed and when it is students at the helm. They said they wanted creativity. They said they wanted integrated technology so they could harness that power. They said they wanted effective student governments and effective student representation. They said they wanted a voice so that they can communicate with their teachers constructively, so that they can communicate in the interests of improvement.

Beneath all of this, the cornerstone of engagement is the idea of ownership – because above all, students said that they want ownership for their education. They want to take responsibility. That engagement, though embodying a very broad definition, can come down to one word, and that is 'empowerment'.

There was a lot of discussion about the roles that educators play. It is individuals that make the difference; that teachers were so important. However, there were many expectations on teachers, and it was not about making teachers do more, but about making and fostering a culture where teachers do differently.

If there was a role that had a possibility to realize change and to engage students, I think it's Student Success, and I thank you for the work that you are doing and the work that you will do, but I also want to leave you with a challenge, and it's a simple but profound idea and that is: an education for students versus an education belonging to students.

Because engagement is not something that can be imposed, it is not something that can be mandatory. It's something that has to be fostered. It's about fostering a culture that recognizes the worth, reason, and right to student input, opinion, and expression. Engagement is not something that should be looked upon as daunting, because the most resounding point from that forum was that students are eager to continue the conversation, that students are eager to have a voice, that students want to participate. It is about asking the right questions and it is about listening. If we can have students as active contributors and active collaborators in education then indeed, we can succeed.

Thank you.