Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Student Choice as an instructional strategy - three ways to encourage it

When my daughters were young, they usually didn’t want to go to bed at their bedtime. To give them choice, I wouldn’t ask them if they wanted to go or ask them what time they wanted to go to bed. I would ask them, “Do you want to walk to bed or do you want to be carried to bed?”

The simple analogy relates to the opportunity for choice that we need to give to students in the classroom. It’s no longer enough to simply say, “Do as I say.” While students can’t make a choice of IF they want to learn certain content as it relates to standards, they can make choices on the HOW. For example, one of the Alabama state standards for Chemistry states, “Use the periodic table as a systematic representation to predict properties of elements based on their valence electron arrangement.” We can’t let students choose if they want to learn the content, but we can partner with them and allow them to choose how they want to demonstrate their learning as it relates to the standard.

Here are three ways we can create opportunities for more student choice:
Ask students It’s that simple. When deciding on lessons, projects, videos, examples, starting points, assessments, experiences, etc, teachers need to ask themselves, How could I get student input about this? (Then do it.) Using a rating scale is an easy way to find out what students like and dislike, what concepts they are having trouble with, and where they perceive their knowledge level to be.
Allow for collaboration
Give students the opportunity to work together in small groups or with partners to brainstorm ideas, give feedback, and research together. Learning how to develop criteria alongside the teacher creates more ownership and leads to an opportunity for self-check and reflection. Student choice that is a result of collaboration can lead to greater accountability with self and others.
Explicitly teach skills By explicitly teaching skills, it doesn’t mean to avoid teaching content. It means that in addition to teaching content, teach students the skills they need to problem-solve: how to evaluate evidence, ask questions, find information, create hypotheses, and develop, defend, and analyze arguments. Equipped with these skills, students can make better and more informed choices.
By allowing students to have more choice, it can increase productivity and motivation. Choice, like all other teaching strategies, is just that - a strategy. We don’t need to use one strategy for all situations. Choice should be implemented with purpose and as a means to help students learn more than what they ever thought they could or wanted to.

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1 comment:

  1. Student Choice is a terrific instructional strategy for the classroom that motivates, empowers and teaches students, and that will benefit them outside the classroom as well. I love your three implementation strategies!