Student Voice to Student Outcomes Study

Healthy SchoolsJan 24 2024

The Student Voice to Student Outcomes Study, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was launched in 2021 in partnership with the Search Institute, Pennsylvania State University, Villanova University, and school and district partners (including students, educators, and district staff). The purpose of the study, concluded in 2023, was to build evidence of the value of student voice in improving critical student outcomes and in creating more equitable learning environments.

Student voice practices refer to the opportunities students have to participate in and influence the educational decisions that shape their lives and the lives of their peers. Student voice can take many forms and can be expressed schoolwide or within the classroom. Students can organize and demand changes in hiring policies, curriculum, or school climate. Principals can convene student advisory committees, and teachers can ask students to provide feedback on lessons. All of these distinct practices have one thing in common: They all help students participate in and influence educational decision making.


While educators (e.g., teachers and school administrators) increasingly incorporate student voice into classroom and school improvement efforts, most students feel they have few opportunities to participate in and influence classroom and school decision making. This omission is concerning, as student voice is a promising practice for fostering classroom and school environments that are responsive to students’ needs. Emerging research shows that schools and classrooms that use student voice practices are better able to facilitate students’ academic and developmental success and offer better access to educational opportunity.


Through the Student Voice to Student Outcomes Study, Child Trends and its partners sought to advance its goals by:

  • Developing and validating self-report measures that capture the state of student voice practices at the school and classroom levels
  • Providing professional development to participating schools
  • Understanding the relationship between students’ experiences with student voice and critical student outcomes
  • Capturing student voice practices in classrooms and schools through qualitative case studies
  • Developing a Student Voice Toolkit to support youth and practitioners in designing, implementing, and evaluating student voice practices in their classrooms and schools


  • Student Voice Toolkit: This toolkit provides research, tools, and resources to help educators develop and refine student voice practices in K-12 classrooms and schools so that they can more effectively involve students in classroom and school decision making. We regularly update the toolkit with new research published from our work.
  • State of Student Voice Practices in Schools Survey: We validated two separate (multidimensional) scales that reflect the state of student voice practices in a school: one for school-level student voice practices and another for classroom-level student voice practices. Each scale has strong reliability, convergent validity with student-teacher relationships, and predictive validity with academic engagement. The scales work equally well with students of different gender identities, racial and ethnic backgrounds, and school levels (middle and high).
    • The 11-item school-level student voice practices scale captures opportunities for student voice at the school level, student participation in those opportunities, and adult responsiveness to student voice.
    • The 17-item classroom-level student voice practices scale captures teachers’ practices of seeking student input/feedback, collaborative decision making with students, and responsiveness to student voice.
  • What Is Student Voice Anyway? The Intersection of Student Voice Practices and Shared Leadership: This article presents a framework that identifies the core components of student voice in classrooms and schools. The framework provides a roadmap for students, teachers, school leaders, and academic scholars to understand how leadership at the school and classroom levels can envision and design student voice practices.
  • From Student Experience to Student Voice: This blog discusses the importance of recognizing students as thought partners in designing, interpreting, and acting upon the results of student experience surveys.


Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Child Trends Staff

Principal investigator: Samantha Holquist

Task leads: Yosmary Rodriguez; Devan O’Toole

Research Partners

Search Institute: Ashley Boat

Pennsylvania State University: Dana Mitra; Ghadir Al Saghir

Villanova University: Jerusha Conner