Speaking Volumes: Valuing Voices in the Classroom

Greg Shamie
Greg Shamie
Empty classroom with empty chairs and desks

What’s the difference between what a participant says they learned and what you think you taught them?

At Leadership, we encourage our participants to have a voice in our sessions and work to ensure that they leave our sessions having been heard.

To do this, you must first create an environment that prioritizes the participant’s voice as the most important element in learning. Frame this concept from the beginning: the most important voice in the room is not yours, but theirs. It is their voices that will inform you where they are at and what they would like to learn in the experience.  

Start early in the session with a check-in whip around to gain a sense of where participants are and simultaneously (and strategically!) get their voices in the room early on. After that try a ‘learning bid’, in other words, hear from the participants what they would like to learn by the end of the session. Put it up on newsprint if that helps, or give out index cards and have participants write what they’re hoping to learn there. This way you can work to align what you have prepared with their specific expectations. From there dive into the content of the session and create interactive experiences for your participants to connect, explore new ideas and concepts, and reflect on how this impacts their work and life.

Asking questions and digging deeper into the participant’s findings and observations is a key technique for deepening the learning. I actively listen to what my participants are saying and form questions based off of their comments. This is where using the Experiential Learning Cycle works best for me. I listen to what my participant’s observations are about the experience we just explored and then pose a question to the group based on what they had said. From there I help participants to apply the lesson discussed to their actual life.

When you reach the last part of your session, do an assessment of what your participants have grasped from the experience. This can be as simple as asking them to write on a Post-It one thing they learned from this session and one question they still have. This will give you key insights and evidence of their learning. Use this to inform what you need to prepare for the next session. The goal in doing this is to make participants feel like they are being heard and valued: that their voices are what is driving your collaboration. Ultimately, this increases buy-in and helps build an environment of trust.

If you are teaching a 45-minute class multiple times a day, every day during the week, you can still follow this structure by taking the time to:

  • quickly check in with students and get their voices in the room early on
  • share the learning objective and get a sense of what they would like to learn by the end of the lesson
  • give them an interactive experience that will have them explore and highlight your teaching points
  • use questioning and encourage your students to drive the discussion
  • assess what they have learned from your lesson so that you can build into the next one

The reason why the participant’s voice speaks volumes for me is because they are speaking about what they have actually received and understood from what I have taught and that is way more powerful and valuable than what I may think they have received. 

How do you value your participant’s voices? Tell us in the comments below or tweet me @GregShamie.



"Speaking Volumes: Valuing Voices in the Classroom", The Leadership Program, Inc. 2016

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Request School Consultation
Greg Shamie

By Greg Shamie

Greg Shamie is the Director of Staff Development at The Leadership Program, having been with the company for over 18 years. An internationally recognized facilitator, keynote speaker, and strategic coach, Greg’s focus is to inspire individuals to go beyond what they believe is possible. He loves the concept of Leadership no matter what a person’s role and is committed to helping people expand their perspectives on how to set and achieve their goals. He has presented internationally on such topics such as, “Leading By Example”, “Finding the Leader Within”, "Perseverance and the Power of Failure”, “Delivering Dynamic and Compelling Presentations”, and many more. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for Broadway Inspirational Voices (BIV) in New York City. Greg received his Masters in Educational Theatre from NYU. His professional mantra is ‘Connecting people and performance to purpose’.