Student voice: A call for improving teaching and learning at an urban charter school

Kelly C Davenport, University of Pennsylvania


This study examines a charter school located in one of the biggest cities in the United States whose educational ideals center on participatory democracy and hands-on learning. As a whole, this study traces the movement from this school's original mission to its classroom practices, focusing specifically on including student voices in the decision-making processes. This study showcases what the students say about their classrooms and their teachers, arguing that what these students say parallels current research on effective pedagogical practices. This study also highlights teachers' understandings of what they hear students say. The data collected for this study answers: What do the eighth graders at this charter school say the classroom practices of teaching and learning should be like? And secondly, as a result of what teachers hear from their students about classroom teaching and learning, how do teachers' teaching practices evolve throughout the school year? Different approaches and theories to urban educational reform offer insights into how to enact positive change on the teaching and learning at this school. In addition, educational research literature supports what students say and teachers hear. Action research serves as a methodological guide. Case study is also useful in developing an understanding of teacher and student perspectives as the school evolves, as well as the role the primary researcher plays in catalyzing school-wide change. Research methods include a personal audio journal, students as co-researchers who then interview teachers and students, teacher “affinity” groups, and document analysis. Each of these works to illuminate not only the tacit theories and assumptions that each holds, but also, the discourses at work within the setting and how they affect the change process. This project tells how teachers and students improve the quality of instruction in this urban charter school. As a result, this study concludes that for the reform process to succeed and this charter's original mission to be fulfilled, student voice must be a regular, official part of this school's formal governance structure.

Subject Area

Teacher education|School administration|Secondary education

Recommended Citation

Davenport, Kelly C, "Student voice: A call for improving teaching and learning at an urban charter school" (2001). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3014302.