Student Voice: OUR Future Learning | Coomera Anglican College

Student Voice: OUR Future Learning

During 2022, eight Year 11 students attended a Student Innovation and Leadership event in Brisbane facilitated by BOP Industries with our Acting Deputy Principal of Strategy and Innovation, Dr Bek Duyckers. We were both lucky to be a part of this group of students. At this event, we engaged in the start of a design sprint, but we didn’t complete the sprint so we were unable to ideate and design solutions to problems we had identified meaning we also didn’t get to see the long-term impact of what our design sprint would result in. What we really liked during this event was having our voice heard.  

Dr Duyckers listened to our feedback from the event and offered to create opportunities for us to work through our thoughts as students and explore how our voice can help shape our learning into the future. Across Semester Two, we met with Dr Duyckers every Thursday morning from 7.30am to reflect, share, explore and ideate. 

During one of these sessions, Dr Bek Duyckers invited us to design a session to facilitate with staff during the College’s Staff Professional Development Week in January of 2023. We were nervous but excited at the opportunity to share student voice and perspective to work together to enhance learning at the College. We started with a couple of games, where staff were to engage with different types of student learners and the character traits or behaviours they might see in these students in their classroom. Below is the transcript of our presentation…

WORDS - Lindsey White and Sophie Wedding

After that quick brainstorm, it is obvious that all students learn differently, which, as teachers, you would already be aware of. But the question we are asking today is, “How can you keep all these unique students engaged in a learning environment that provides them with the opportunity to reach their highest learning potential?”

As students we do not have the qualifications or experience that you all share, however, ultimately we are all here for growth, whether personally or professionally and to learn. Our goal for this short session is to provide you all further insight into what our students are looking for within their classrooms. We stand here as representatives for the student body and have conducted numerous surveys among all year levels at the College to capture the students’ opinion on our College’s learning environment. By the end of the session, we hope you all have at least one new idea to take away and trial and a chance to reflect on which techniques are already strengths.

There are many different theme’s that come through. Here are our top three, that we believe to be the most important and common themes that came from our students:

You are all amazing teachers already – it is clear our students love your passion for teaching and the energy you bring to your students, because it makes lessons more engaging for us. 

Collaboration is key – students want to collaborate. They want to share ideas and knowledge, help others overcome challenges and work together so they can bounce off each other’s unique ideas and learning styles

A range of learning styles – some students prefer individual work and others collaborative. As teachers it is really important to have a variety of opportunities in class to give students choice.

So Why?

Over 450 secondary students participated in surveys at the end of last year and these are our results.

When asked how do you learn best we observed among Senior Secondary students the top three methods were collaborative work, one on one with the teacher and listening to teachers as a lecture based style. 

Similarly in Junior Secondary we noted the top three methods were collaborative group work, videos and individual work.

Like all good essays and research investigations, we collected thorough reasoning and asked why? Why were these methods their favourites and what made them most beneficial?

Junior Secondary Students:

“I like doing group work activities as it lets students connect with each other and be more familiar with everyone in the class”

“Interactive learning. Because it means I actually get to do something instead of listening to someone talk for hours”

“Visual learning allows the information to sink in more”

“Group activities so you can share your ideas and elaborate off of each other’s answers to have a better outcome.

“I enjoy researching, writing notes, presenting and watching stuff - mainly individual work - because it allows me to go at my own pace and if I have any questions, I can search them up or ask questions”

“I enjoy activities like practice tests as they help me to prepare for assessments by highlighting my weaknesses”

Senior Secondary Students:

“Having a video to explain topics works better for me as I am much more a visual learner than anything, along with having relaxed collaborative classroom environments can for me feel more productive”

“Group work can be engaging; however, it can also be distracting or hard to organise. Silent work can be helpful sometimes (maybe only for half the lesson though otherwise attention spans go out the window)”

“I think the teaching here is great, the PowerPoints and sample structures are always very helpful when getting started”

What does this mean?

Students are more engaged in the classroom when they have the opportunity to collaborate and have time to practice the knowledge you teach within class time, because they are more easily able to ask questions and have time to process the new applications of their knowledge. 

Additionally, including various different methods of teaching in classes is also essential. Not only to cater for the different preferences between students, but also to provide the variety needed to maintain engagement which keeps us motivated and, more likely to want to get the work done, rather than simply because it is assigned. It helps drive curiosity which is an invaluable trait in our learning journeys.

Finally, “having access to classroom resources, for example, PowerPoints and videos, before and after class” can not only provide us with basic understandings prior to class but provide accessible resources for revision.

Looking into the future we want to continue to build upon these strengths because the first priority should be the students. Creating a comfortable environment for learning should be our goal, so based on student suggestions we have gathered a list of ideas on how to continue growing a flourishing learning community starting with learning and teaching styles that could further enhance our CAC experience.

This also considers teacher student relationships. Just to quickly touch on this, students want teachers that are calm and relaxed at times because they find:

“its easier to learn without much pressure on you, so a good connection with the teacher does impact your learning”


“being able to talk to the teacher comfortably versus being scared to ask a question because I have a poor connection with them”

As far as classroom activities go, these are our most prominent suggestions:

Junior Secondary Students:

“Split up into groups based on learning abilities so you get taught properly”

“After a topic has been taught once allow the students who understand to continue on with the work and the ones that don’t go into a small group with the teacher as to not disturb the others.”

“Kahoot and gimkit because it’s a more interesting way to learn”

“I like the activities that we do as partners or groups because you are able to collaborate and share you ideas with your peers”

“30-second brain bash in Maths”

“Give students a choice about how they learn or have a balance between options.”

Senior Secondary Students:

“More group work would be nice, as in some cases the teacher shuts down conversations, regardless of if it is related to the work or involves helping a fellow student.”

“Work more in groups or partners because we talk more and are able to explain it to each other, which helps us learn better.”

”Tasks that can be done with either peers or can be done alone when someone either gets stuck or not.”

“Each week have mini quizzes so we know what we need to study”

This quick snapshot captures the most frequented suggestions regarding:

Collaborative activities like class discussions, group projects, friendly debates, four corners and research/inquiry tasks.

Visual based learning utilising the whiteboard walls and desks more often, poster making, brainstorming, mind maps

Brain breaks to help maintain focus during long double periods

Having a variety of individual, group, pair and classroom work where this may look like dividing a period or double in half and doing half quiet and the other group based.

Our main take away is that students want to have flexible learning styles within their lessons and this would ultimately benefit their studies because, by designing lesson plans to include a few of the ideas just mentioned, we can better fulfil the needs of our students which would improve focus, engagement and productivity. 

As well as enabling students to get to know others better, especially in an academic sense, we believe it is important to implement the common theme of collaboration (that was frequent among all respondents) as the applications of this learning style has advantages far beyond the classroom walls. For example, working in our future career paths, in a team or project.

So how can you as a teacher make a difference in your student’s academic growth? 

We ask you to take time to reflect on the message we have given today.

Our challenge for each of you as teachers is to choose at least one new idea to trial in your classroom this term. Maybe you could have a fortnightly Kahoot revising old content to help improve the long-term memory of core content or, initiate class discussions once a week to allow students more collaboration and sharing of ideas or maybe a five minute brain break to maintain focus in double periods. We are not trying to change and force a different teaching style upon you, but we are looking to further improve the way students learn and the way they feel about Coomera Anglican College.   

You ask us to be brave so now it’s your turn, it’s ok if you fail, it’s ok if things don’t go to plan, all we ask is that you try. Try and do something that you wouldn’t normally do and see what happens.  If we could easily incorporate a video and collaborative discussion within only 15 minutes then there is endless opportunity for you all.

And, as with any homework or assignment you like to give out, we will be coming back at the end of the year to reflect on your approach to our challenge and the impact it made not only you but your students. So there is no escaping it.