This research stems from my doctoral studies where I was examining the differences between teaching and learning in classes of different size. The more I read about issues relating to class size, the more I started to notice that the student voice was almost completely absent from the research. Perhaps this was understandable, as the vast majority of class size studies have taken place in early childhood contexts where students might not be able to articulate their views and experiences on learning in reduced-size classes. That said, there exists a broad literature on successful engagement with the student voice in educational settings, and studies show that while the student voice on school-wide issues is relatively easy to elicit, students’ commentary on teaching and learning in the classroom is more difficult to obtain. I felt that the insights of the student body on how class size reduction shaped their learning merited attention for the simple reason that they are the “first level consumers of educational services.”
This case study provides an account of how I was able to hear the student voice across several studies examining the effectiveness of class size reduction as well as on teachers’ pedagogical innovation. The case throws light on some of the most crucial aspects of eliciting the student voice in qualitative research including some key challenges. I will share how I identified students to participate in my studies, how I conducted interviews with them, and how I shared data from numerous individual and focus-group interviews. The case study concludes by showing how the student voice represents one of the most important sources of data when conducting research in the classroom.