Writing in a western Sydney newspaper, Mr Whitby said the old mantra that children should be seen and not heard is still applied too readily for students.
“Over the past decade, we’ve come to realise that student voice is an important component of learning. Listening and responding to students’ experiences not only develops trust within the classroom but it provides teachers with powerful feedback on the effectiveness of their teaching practice and strategies,” he wrote.
Mr Whitby said just as health care recognised the need to consider patient feedback, education must listen to students.
“When students are active participants in the learning process they feel more motivated and empowered to learn,” he wrote.
“In my experience, when students are given regular opportunities to contribute to the conversations on learning and teaching, they take the role seriously and provide constructive feedback for teachers.”
Mr Whitby said engaging senior students to be part of interview panels for new principals was another way in which student voices can be involved in a school’s development.
He compared student empowerment with the empowerment of voters in democratic countries.
“Just as the best nations are those that allow all people to be heard, the best schools are the ones that ensure students get a voice in all aspects of learning and teaching,” he concluded.