Teacher Voice


In education, teacher voice refers to the values, opinions, beliefs, perspectives, expertise, and cultural backgrounds of the teachers working in a school, which extends to teacher unions, professional organizations, and other entities that advocate for teachers.

As both a philosophical stance and a school-improvement strategy, the concept of teacher voice in education has grown increasingly popular in recent decades. Generally speaking, teacher voice can be seen as an alternative to more hierarchical forms of governance or decision making in which school administrators may make unilateral decisions with little or no input from the faculty. Teacher voice is also predicated on the belief or recognition that a school will be more successful—e.g., that teachers will be more effective and professionally fulfilled, that students will learn and achieve more, and that parents will feel more confidence in the school and more involved in their child’s education—if school leaders both consider and act upon the values, opinions, beliefs, expertise, and perspectives of the teachers in a school. While the degree to which teacher voice is both solicited and valued can vary considerably from school to school, educators are increasingly embracing teacher voice in decisions related school leadership and governance, instruction, curriculum, and professional development.

For a more detailed discussion of the concept, see voice.

In public schools, it is now more common for teachers to play a role in school-leadership decisions, and administrators are more likely to solicit and act upon teacher concerns and viewpoints than in the past. Historically, teacher unions and academic departments, which typically have chairpersons with defined leadership responsibilities, have been the most common channels through which teachers participated in school governance. In recent years, however, the role of teachers in leadership and instructional decisions has expanded and diversified, and alternative governance strategies, such as shared leadership and leadership teams, are becoming more common in schools throughout the United States. Teachers are also playing a more active role in instructional decisions, including the design of school curricula and assessments, and in the selection of academic texts, learning technologies, and other educational resources. More recently, teachers have become increasingly active in voicing their concerns about teacher-performance evaluations, including the criteria used to define effective teachers and determine whether their pay scales should be based in part on student performance (for related discussions, see high-stakes test and value-added measures). Teachers may also be involved in selecting the types of professional development and training offered by a school or district, including teacher-led forms of professional development such as professional learning communities. And, of course, teachers may also share their opinions with a larger audience by serving on committees at the district, state, or national levels; by writing books, blogs, or newspaper editorials; or by taking on a leadership role in a union or professional association, such as a membership organization for teachers in a specific subject area.

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