Silence at school : uses and experiences of silence in pedagogy at a secondary school

Hanna, Amy (2021) Silence at school : uses and experiences of silence in pedagogy at a secondary school. British Educational Research Journal. pp. 1158-1176. ISSN 0141-1926 (

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Silence infuses all aspects of our daily communications: what we say and what remains unspoken; those to whom we speak, and those we ignore; those we trust and respect, and those we do not. In the school environment, interactions between students and teachers lie at the heart of pedagogy. This relationship is also marked by its silences, and the concept of ‘student voice’ arose out of these silences on matters that affect students. However, the role of silence in such interactions has yet to receive comprehensive attention. This article presents the findings of a study on the uses and experiences of silence in the classroom with secondary school students aged 14–15 years and their teachers. Drawing on nine group discussions and 33 interviews with 20 teachers and 35 students, respectively, I argue that an oversight of silence in the student voice discipline has obscured the power dimensions of student voice, and the injustices that become visible when different forms of silence are illuminated. I argue that there are two core ideas which emerge from the findings: firstly, that silent practices manifest in two distinct paradigms of productivity and listening which function as expectations of teaching and learning; secondly, that the conflation of the listening paradigm with respect demonstrates the capacity of silent practices to reinforce the division between teaching and learning to become mediums of injustice. I conclude that this dichotomous relationship between pedagogy and student voice requires a pedagogy based on a critical examination of respect.