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Student voice in secondary schools: the possibility for deeper change

Dana Mitra (Department of Education Policy Studies, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA)

Journal of Educational Administration

ISSN: 0957-8234

Article publication date: 20 August 2018

Issue publication date: 15 October 2018




The purpose of this paper is to consider the role of student voice in secondary school reform.


Through a literature review, it defines the concept of student voice within bodies of research on youth participation internationally.


It notes the ways the USA is distinct and lagging behind. It then looks at the broadening scope of ways that young people have become involved in change efforts. It considers ways that student voice can deepen implementation efforts and strengthen classroom practice. It breaks this discussion into: outcomes for classroom instruction, organizational change, and the relationship between student voice and power. The paper ends with a discussion of the importance of attending to issues of power in youth–adult relationships, including ways to avoid the co-optation of young people.


This paper reviews the most recent work showing how student voice can impact change, with a particular focus when possible on urban secondary schools to fit with this special issue. It updates a previous review of the field conducted ten years ago (Mitra, 2006). Before beginning this review, however, it is important to understand how student voice varies across global contexts.



Mitra, D. (2018), "Student voice in secondary schools: the possibility for deeper change", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 56 No. 5, pp. 473-487.



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