Expert Witnesses: Voices of Significance

K. Oerlemans, Lesley Vidovich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Michael Fullan in 1991 made the comment that little was known abouthow students viewed educational change, as no one had thought to ask them. There isa small but growing literature seeking the views of students on a range of issuesassociated with schooling. This paper reports the findings of a study of students’perceptions of top–down educational change, involving school amalgamations, closuresand creation of middle schools. The policy process was purportedly to involveconsultation with students. The study interviewed students to explore the nature andextent of their participation in the policy enactment and their views about the changes.Several meta level themes emerged from the students’ ‘voices,’ including issues associatedwith disempowerment, and competing social justice and economic discourses.The findings foreground the often messy and contradictory tensions evident in policyprocesses. The study found that despite the policy intent to include students, theycontinued to be the ‘objects’ of policy initiatives, submerged in what Freire labelled a‘culture of silence.’ It was the macro level policy elite who exerted the most influence,using their power, privilege and status to propagate particular versions of schooling.The paper concludes that students are deeply impacted by educational change andthey want to participate in restructuring agendas. Therefore policy makers at all levelsneed to make spaces for the active engagement of students in policy processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363-379
JournalJournal of Educational Change
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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