Navigator Blog

Am I Instilling Hope in My Students?

September 6, 2022

How to reveal the gaps between student perception and teacher intention so you can make a difference

By Jacqueline Burke

Teachers matter because the experiences they create make a lasting difference in our lives. Reflect on your education and recall a teacher whose effects still linger with you today. These are unforgettable memories indicative of the lifelong influence that a caring teacher can have.

What if teachers could learn to hone this influence in ways that support student success both now and in the future by fostering hope, engagement, and belonging while engaging students in deeper learning that builds 21st century skills?

Teachers want to foster hope, engagement, and belonging.

Making a positive impact in students’ lives is almost always at the top of a teacher’s reasons for teaching. We must ask students about their learning experiences—it can reveal gaps between their perception and teacher intention. If we understand student perception, we can create more effective strategies to meet student needs.

The following quote is from a teacher after reviewing results from a student perception survey they administered with their class: 

“A student’s not just going to walk up to your desk and say, ‘Hey, you don’t give me enough praise.’ It’s just something that you don’t even know until they take the survey.”

This teacher realized that to make a difference in their student’s life, they must first understand their perception of the learning experience.

Recently, many policymakers and practitioners have come to recognize that when asked the right questions in the right ways, listening to student voice can be an essential source of information on the learning environment. New research has confirmed a link between elevating student voice and academic success, strengthening arguments for incorporating student voice into school improvement efforts.

What is most important to ask students?

In a recent study by Battelle for Kids and Johns Hopkins University, students were surveyed about their perceptions of central themes of hope, engagement, and belonging in 21st century, deeper learning experiences.  
These themes are important to measure because they are malleable, meaning educators can impact them. They also have effects on students now and in the future. Students who feel hopeful and engaged and feel a sense of belonging have higher academic performance, attendance and graduation rates, and intrinsic motivation and believe they can accomplish difficult things.

“I look forward to this class every day.”

The study conducted by Battelle for Kids and Johns Hopkins University also revealed that the highest rated item on the student perception survey was “I look forward to this class every day.” It emphasizes the value students put on their educational experience, including their interactions with teachers and peers. It also reinforces that what teachers do matters and has meaningful impact.  
Listening to student voice is essential. And when educators have tools to help them respond, they can make a powerful impact building hope, engagement, and belonging.  
When teachers in the pilot study received the survey results, most reported they would be taking action based on the results. Several teachers stated that the survey allowed them to get to know students in ways they usually would not be able to throughout a regular school day. The perceptions of educational experiences students shared revealed areas where teachers could address their practices to foster more hope, engagement, and belonging.

“As someone who constantly looks at what I’m doing in the classroom and reflects on my teaching practices, it was quite educational for me.” 
“I sat here and looked at my results, and within 20 minutes, I had written down several ideas that I could do to improve.”
“(The results are) eye-opening, and it definitely lit a fire under me to do things differently next year.”

It’s important to ask for and respond to student voice to design learning experiences that support overall student success. Teachers will make a lasting difference when they foster hope, belonging, and engagement in 21st century, deeper learning experiences.