Ash Pike & Roghayeh Sadeghi -  The Power of the Student Voice


VicSRC 2015 Recognition Award Winner: Roghayeh Sadeghi  

Roghayeh Sadeghi was the recipient of the 2015 Newsboys Foundation Youth Leadership Award in conjunction with the Victorian Student Representative Council. A Year 9 student from Northern Bay College in greater Geelong, she emigrated to Australia from Iran with her family in 2012.

In this short time, she has transformed herself from someone who spoke no English to a model student who is passionate about education and leadership development within schools. In this interview, she discusses the connection between active student participation and improved learning outcomes.

Ash Pike is the Student Engagement and Wellbeing Learning Partner at Northern Bay College (NBC) Peacock Campus, and was runner-up for the 2015 Victorian Student Representative Council Teacher Adviser Award.

The role of the Learning Partner at NBC provides Ash with an opportunity to combine her teaching, health promotion and social work experience. She is committed to creating a school environment where the student voice is valued and evident in all areas from policy and school council to curriculum choices and programs.

Can you tell us about what drives you to be passionate about learning/teaching? Is it a challenge maintaining and nurturing that passion?

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Roghayeh: Going to school isn't everyone's favourite thing, but it is my favourite thing to do. I think about the future and being successful, so I work hard to achieve things I want. Learning has just always been a big passion of mine! I make school and learning fun by being active and positive, so it’s never a challenge.

Learning isn't just in school, but it's everywhere around you. So whether you like it or not, you are going to learn so many things in your life that you never knew about!

Ash: I currently work as the Student Engagement and Wellbeing Learning Partner at Northern Bay College Peacock Campus (NBC). The role of the Learning Partner at NBC provides an opportunity to combine my teaching, health promotion and social work experience.

I haven’t found it difficult to maintain my passion for teaching and learning, as working at NBC is the most rewarding job I have ever had. It is such an honour to witness a young person’s development, to be by their side through life’s challenges as well as witnessing their successes; I don’t think it actually gets any better! 


How important were teachers and mentors in school to help develop and nurture that passion to learn? Were there any challenges that you couldn’t have overcome without their help?

Roghayeh: I can’t imagine myself being where I am without every single one of my teachers and mentors. There have definitely been many challenges that I could not have overcome without their help, including getting out of my comfort zone, trying new things, making new friends and getting good marks.

I was always the shy student who hated speaking in front of people, until my teachers helped me. Now public speaking is something that I love doing and am strongly passionate about!

Ash: I work hard at building authentic and genuine relationships with students, staff and families to help develop and nurture a passion for education. As a college we work in a way that ensures that all young people, regardless of who they are or where they came from, have access to what they need to achieve their goals and be successful. Part of this is the realisation that as teachers and mentors we can be positive role models to students and assist them in developing a passion to learn and be successful. 


What are some of the most important characteristics of an effective and engaged learner?

Roghayeh: Some of the most important characteristics are resilience, and for people to be able to pick themselves up when they fail and to be able to try again, to see the positives and to do the impossible. You need passion to be able to love what you do, and to feel strongly about things whether that's to do, change or to create something big.

Positivity and self-esteem are also a huge part of success, because when life gets hard you have two choices; to tell yourself how much you suck and that you can't do it, or to smile and give things a go!

Ash: Our school is filled with effective and engaged learners; students that are resilient, committed, self-motivated and ready to learn. There are some barriers of course.

Statistics show that many of our students come from low socio-economic households, which can impact the development of their academic skills compared to children from other communities. So we work hard at developing early intervention programs and working to address academic levels. Any student from Prep to Year 12, regardless of their background or ability needs to be able to see that they are successfully working towards their goals.

NBC teaching is informed by Professor John Hattie's visible learning strategies, Learning Support Plans, Victorian Curriculum learning ladders, fluid grouping, formative and summative assessments, and differentiation of not what is taught but how we teach. We work hard at instilling an understanding of our CORE values; Collaboration, Outcomes, Respect and Equity which in turn builds students who are effective and engaged and therefore, ready to learn. 

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Can the student voice improve learning outcomes at school? If so, how?

Roghayeh: I strongly believe that the biggest improvements are always made by students and student voice. In most schools student voice can be very effective, and is especially so at NBC, where students have already made many positive changes to what they want their school to look, feel and sound like.

Student voice improves learning outcomes because they know themselves better than anyone else, and exactly how they learn and want to learn. Their voice gives them the power to be strong and responsible - change is within their hands!

Ash: Student voice is about giving and valuing student input in all areas of school. In this way student voice makes a student's time at school more enjoyable, but it also supports better mental health and wellbeing outcomes through positive relationships and a sense of belonging.

Student learning outcomes will be increased if students feel like valued and active members of their school community. As teachers, if we take the time to listen we can gain invaluable feedback not only on curriculum choices, but also teaching and learning styles and needs. 


What role does the student voice play in your school environment?

Roghayeh: Student voice plays a big role within NBC. Student voice creates change, passion, success and responsibility. In all of the 5 NBC campuses we have the Student Representative Council; (SRC) a leadership group that focuses on student voice and student change.

Selected students are a part of this leadership group, and meet regularly to discuss issues affecting the school and how they can make the school a better environment for everyone to learn and feel welcomed.

In some campuses they also have other leadership groups such as Stand Out, which focuses on decreasing bullying and bad behaviour, creating diversity and inclusion, and standing up against homophobia and transphobia. There is also the Roots and Shoots group that focuses on the school environment and sustainability! We are hoping to have these groups to be on every NBC campus by the end of 2016-2017.

Ash: Student voice is an important part of our school community, and is valued in all areas from policy and school council, to curriculum choices and programs. Through my current role, I am lucky enough to be able to dedicate time to building authentic student leadership opportunities that develop young people into the leaders they are capable of being. This is done through groups such as SRC, Stand Out, Roots and Shoots and also our Year 5 leadership program, Heads Up Ambassadors.

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As a teacher/student, how important is it to have the student voice be heard? Has winning the awards at the Victorian Student Representative Council ceremony made much of an impact to the school, students and its culture?

Roghayeh: Student voice means that students are supported to take responsibility for their own learning, wellbeing, and role in the local and greater community. It provides students with opportunities to become active participants in their education and give their input towards decisions about what, and how they learn. There is a strong connection between the student voice and learning outcomes for students. The desire is for students to understand that their expertise, opinions and ideas are valued in all aspects of school life.

Student voice is very important to me and plays a big part of my life! It makes me feel a sense of responsibility, achievement and success. Students have their own way of doing things, and if they don't get any input to school, they won’t be passionate about learning or school in general.

Winning the Newsboys Foundation Youth Leadership award has definitely made a very positive impact to the school. It meant that we were able to hire a leadership trainer from NIRODAH to train students about leadership, student voice, student change and impact and student achievement.

Ash: NBC is committed to ensuring student voice is an authentic part of the school. This has allowed me to engage young people in student led initiatives such as SRC, and address the issue of bullying. If we have students leading the way in talking about bullying and the impact this has on a young person’s mental health, it obviously has a greater impact than a teacher saying the same thing.

It has made a big impact at school in putting student voice on the agenda, and a greater understanding of how important it is for us to consider student voice in everything that we do.

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How important is digital literacy for one to thrive in the workplace now, and in the future?

Roghayeh: Digital literacy is very important because it connects students, teacher and families together. Not only does it allow us to share knowledge but in the workplace it really helps people to manage their time better and to do more but faster work.

Ash: Having the skills to be able to find, evaluate, share, and create content through the internet and technologies is hugely important to all areas of work and life. At school we use GAFE (Google Apps For Education) for so much of our work. This includes teacher planning, working individually or as a group; much of the work we do in student Engagement and Wellbeing is informed by data.


What challenges do you predict you/your students will face as future employees?

Roghayeh: I think that my challenges as a future employee will be time management, such as having a good work-life balance, being able to spend time with my family and friends, and being organised and responsible for my job!

Ash: I am hopeful that all of our students at NBC are involved in developing the skills that they need to be able to be successful citizens after they leave our school community. I trust that we are instilling in our students that the CORE values (Collaboration, Outcomes, Respect and Equity) are not just values that they can live by now, but are life-long values to support them in the future as well. 


Do you think governments and education policy makers are doing enough to shape the curriculum and meet your needs?

Roghayeh: One thing I would like to see is schools provide more career opportunities, and help students discover their passion from Year 9 or earlier. Then in Year 10 they will have a better idea of what work experience they would like to do. I would also like more learning resources to be available for students to fulfil their potential.

Ash: The Northern suburbs of Geelong are often classified as ‘disadvantaged’ but this isn’t a true reflection of this incredible community. Language like that can be very disempowering, so I prefer to talk about how some communities may need additional resources.

This year we provided an extended school days program, which introduced new electives including a number of languages, different sport, drama and dance. There is always more work to be done and I believe we can’t do this alone; so support from government and education policy makers is essential for all schools. 

I am focused on continuing to work towards our long term vision to instill community commitment, confidence and high expectations in lifelong learning by developing young people who are engaged and motivated to fulfil their potential.


What changes do you predict will happen in Australian education over the next 5-10 years?

Roghayeh: I hope that schools can be more welcoming of different people. I want to see inclusion, diversity and friendship in every aspect of school, and for people to stop making fun of others for being different! I predict that teacher and student relationships will become stronger, which will help them learn from each other.

Ash: I am pleased to say that I feel we are currently seeing an increase in supporting and celebrating student voice within education settings, and as someone who has come from a background of youth engagement and community development, I can’t be more excited to be here to experience it.

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