Projecting student voice by constructing grounded theory

Author Identifier

Olivia Johnston

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

The Australian Educational Researcher




School of Education




Western Australian Institute for Educational Research Annual Award Grant 2019 Australian Department of Education Research Training Program


Johnston, O., Wildy, H., & Shand, J. (2021). Projecting student voice by constructing grounded theory. The Australian Educational Researcher, 48(3), 543-564.


Research methods that prioritise student experiences give students a voice and can provide new insights into how teachers’ efforts are experienced by those who receive them—their students. Grounded theory methods can be used to create theory with students to project their voices through a research process that is explained and exemplified in this paper. The process described in this paper was applied to generate grounded theory about secondary school students’ experiences with their teachers’ achievement expectations in the classroom including the data collection, analysis and synthesis methods that draw on classic grounded theory. A substantive group of secondary school students was shadowed across their classes, then interviewed after the observations about their interactions with their teachers that communicated expectations. The main findings of students’ desire to experience trust from their educators are outlined in this article. The research process used provides a model for researchers who want to construct grounded theory with students to create new understandings together. Despite entanglement with issues surrounding power and authenticity, the development of methods for conveying student voice has many benefits, including improving student educational outcomes and fulfilling their human rights.



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