The biggest issue I have with the expectation that students remain quiet in a learning space is that this removes the easiest and most effective feedback for the pre-existing and future teaching and learning-in-play. If classrooms are to be about learning and student-centred and increasingly student-owned, students must not only be heard but heard often and clearly and via a variety of forums (e.g. verbal, Padlet, twitter, Screencastify etc.). The more they speak, the more accurate they'll become and the more the learning will aligned to their specific needs.
There are "benefits" to student silence if the cliché "ignorance is bliss" is to believed. In reality however, when it is the teacher in any learning space who is the most frequent and loudest verbally, you can bet that students may still see this educator but have long since started listening to white noise. For me, I need to hear the student voice and without it, I'm on an increasingly unknown journey without navigation and without knowledge of current and future possible barriers to the students. Another "dubious" claim re the students' silence is the idea that "no news is good news". In reality, when the students do speak up, in many cases it confirms and affirms the appropriateness of the classroom construct and incumbent pedagogical existences within this context or if not so, allows the teacher concerned to make rapid but legitimate and student-driven changes.
For me, it goes beyond mere semantics when we talk about learning over teaching. The latter to me implies the power, knowledge and content is with the teacher and only student-received via teacher-chosen transmission and timing. In stark and empowering contrast, learning gives ownership, agency and motivation to the student, giving him or her a greater freedom but at the same time greater responsibility and opportunity for both personal and academic growth.
Each week, I spend a dedicated 5-10 minutes with every one of my students listening to their analysis of their progress, needs and ambitions. By having such regular and targeted and scheduled discussions, the student is not only comfortable having their voice heard but by this time of the year, are confident in not only knowing that while there isn't always agreement, the voice had been heard and has been considered. Increasingly I find that the more students can voice in an academic context, the more they become proficient in their expression and ultimately their work-flow. They also start to be more discerning and critical in terms of the pronounced voice.
It is my belief that the sign of a successful and healthy learning space is the distinct presence over absence of both the individual and collective student voice. The students are talking anyhow in and out of the class so it to this author only appears logical for the teacher to be receptive to the noise, and where deemed necessary and possible (ideally collaboratively determined), the student utterances or preferences should be reflected in the near and future classroom environs and practice. Student voice should be encouraged on all elements of academic learning, whether in respect of learning physcial constructs, mode of learning, content of learning or the timing of the learning.
Failure to do the above, results in a monologue-rich but collegially and collaboratively poor learning and achievement environment. Why? If students don't feel they're being suitably heard, they will also start being less suitably seen in the supposed learning process and thus the outcome. Such imposed silence also makes it nigh on impossible to engage the students in higher-order thinking and articulation due to so little experience and practice. It is also often due to the suppression of expression that students resent the conditions of their internment and as a result, emotionally and academically leave the class, whether physically remaining present or otherwise.
All teachers should want their classrooms to be thriving, alive learning contexts where student voice is so prevalent that any request for such contribution is rather redundant in nature. We all need to remember that learning is best seen as a conversation between two equal, willing and capable parties and not as a few now and many in the past see or saw the learning dynamic as one hierarchical and one-directional in nature with the student as mere respondent and recipient and rarely the originator or producer.
So let's have the noise, let's have the learning. Come on children, we need you to seen yes, but also seen and heard. Right let's hear it. I am listening.