Recovering the student voice
Certain modes of student voice risk being suppressed and silenced by the policies and practices of contemporary higher education. This absence threatens to erase from students' horizons additional meanings their academic identity might have, and silences embryonic voices in students which seek to express alternative understandings of who they are, who they could be, and what they know. Recovering the student voice creatively involves identifying losses in current perspectives of individual and collective student voice and proposing conditions for having a voice that might restore these losses. The concept of student voice seminal to the Western tradition of the university remains viable. Creative recovery means drawing on past ideas of student voice and showing how these theories might bear new meanings in the future. Recovery is not only retrospective but prospective. Realizing voice creates possibilities for students' becoming. Voice is creative as well as restorative. Voice is realized amid different dimensions of power, and institutional and attitudinal contexts can block or facilitate its recovery. Realization involves taking risks and generating challenges, theoretically and practically. The recovery process entails establishing conceptual conditions for what it means to have a voice and devising practical strategies for overcoming vulnerability and attaining equality. These include constructing pedagogical situations and opening up spaces that enable students to claim a hearing and challenge teachers to listen sensitively. Having a voice partly depends on someone hearing that voice with understanding, and coaching it forth. Listeners are needed who suspend preconceptions of what the student voice might mean, and avoid the danger of recognizing and validating only certain modes of voice whilst marginalizing others. Creative recovery is radical and confrontational. Recovery breaks open past and present definitions of student voice to make a new statement: an affirmation of integrity and courage expressing the complexity of the whole person.