“The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.” (Thoreau, 1863, p.1)
The work of Henry Thoreau encourages us to reflect on the ways in which we conduct ourselves, and to consider our interactions and the concerns we have for our fellow beings. For Thoreau, to have someone truly listen to what he had to say was of enormous value; it was not simply ritual or extended politeness. So, when our learners are asked what they think, how well do we, and our institutions, attend to their answer(s)?
There has been much in the way of policy and rhetoric, and at foundation level, an honest intent to have constructive dialogue with learners in order to “shape services” (Forrest et al., 2007; Walker and Logan, 2008). However, there remain concerns about the value and worth assigned to the outcomes of such discussion and the extent to which there are opportunities for meaningful involvement and engagement for students with their educational communities (Frost and Rogers, 2006; Rudduck and Fielding, 2006; Fielding, 2007; DeFur and Korinek, 2010; Mitra, Frick and Crawford, 2011; Robinson, 2014). Before reflecting on this further, it is useful to establish the literature and policy that has informed how student voice is positioned, and to consider what the implications – or possibilities – might be if we involved our learners in discussions regarding their interpretations of student voice, and the ways in which this might be developed (Hall, 2015, 2017).