Invoking learner voice and developing leadership: what matters to learners?
Educational leadership and management (ELM) research overly focuses on adult leadership
development at the expense of leadership of learners. Framed by the concept of learner
voice, this article focuses on learner leadership and argues that learners should be treated as
people whose ideas matter. It draws on a Bachelor of Education Honours (ELM) elective
which required students (practicing teachers) to establish school leadership clubs and
involve learners in a reform initiative in pursuit of leadership development. The
longitudinal study which informed this article was designed as a multi-case study to explore
learner voice and the development of leadership across 44 leadership clubs drawing on
three data sources. The study found that while the phenomenon of learner leadership was
not common across schools, leadership clubs offered a space for the development of learner
voice. Learner voice was generated in relation to the school physical environment, English
proficiency amongst learners, improved learner conduct, developments pertaining to the
extra-mural curriculum, and leadership training initiatives. In addition, the clubs afforded
learners the opportunity to initiate and lead a change project in their schools. However, the
take-up of learner leadership as a whole school initiative was problematic in the majority of
schools. The article concludes with some suggestions for a future research agenda emerging
out of the first phase of the project.
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