Student Voice in Higher Education: Students' and Tutors' Perceptions of its Utilisation and Purpose

Shaffi, Sandra (2017) Student Voice in Higher Education: Students' and Tutors' Perceptions of its Utilisation and Purpose. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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This study explores and examines the perceptions of students and tutors of the utilisation and purpose of student voice in higher education. It is conducted in a higher education department within a further education college.
Literature form a range of secondary sources explores how student voice is visible in higher education and draws on the drivers behind its increased focus. Specific emphasis is seen in the views of student voice in terms of rights, participation and inclusivity whilst also recognising the challenges this brings. The value of the student-tutor relationship is highlighted as vital in the successful utilisation of student voice. The distribution and impact of power on the use of student voice is fundamental to the examination of literature and is further clearly reflected in the subsequent findings of my study.
I have taken a critical ethnographic approach to the study and drawn on feminist research theory and auto-ethnography to collect and analyse qualitative data, using semi structured interviews, focus groups and a research journal.
Demonstrated within the emerging themes, was a clear indication of the growing attention to collecting student voice and the problems this raises for students and tutors in terms of rights, participation and power inequalities. Research within the literature review supports these notions and also highlights gaps which have been explored within this study as students and tutors raise concerns regarding their position within the classroom, their unease of accountability and the value of relationships in addressing these issues. Contribution to knowledge is clearly shown in the examination of power issues within student voice work and indeed in everyday practice. This is evidenced through examination of the relationship and the examples of power inequalities raised by tutors and students. Significant findings are demonstrated in the unexpected revelation that tutors and students both feel disciplined by the other and believe the other to be the holder of the power.
Whilst existing literature reports on the benefits and challenges of student voice work, my study goes further to examine the role of power in the relationship and the significance of this in terms of transformational practice.
I conclude the study by presenting an action plan to outline my recommendations for transformative practice which combines literature relating to existing studies, key theory in the field of power, and emerging ideas in relation to the perceptions of students and tutors in order to establish an inclusive conclusion to the study.

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