Motivating students with choices throughout the learning process is a great way to encourage students to take ownership of their own learning. It allows them some control in their own decision-making and planning, and can encourage even the most disengaged youth to express his/her uniqueness in learning. By providing students with choices, we acknowledge that there is more than one “right” way to learn something and individualism is embraced, even with common standards and common curriculum maps. It’s simple.
Just provide more than one way to…
1. learn or master something. When students have a choice about how they will learn something, they are more likely to commit to actually learning it and owning the results. The paths to learning the same concept can be different, though the end learning is the same.
2. prove their understanding of a concept. Formal assessments aren’t the only way to show you understand something. Consider using webs, flowcharts, illustrations, written papers, journals, and projects as other choices.
3. share their understanding of a concept. Sharing an understanding of something is appropriate as part of formative assessment throughout the learning process. Choices might include Think-Pair-Share, teaching a classmate something, or explaining something to someone in the evening as part of homework.
4. apply their understanding of a concept. Take the further thinking plunge with students by challenging them to apply their understanding of a concept to something else they know. Start with simple concepts to help students understand the idea of knowledge application.
5. access information about a concept you want them to learn. Information is everywhere and can be accessed through books, iPads, phones, television, and computers. Give students choices in how they access the information you want them to learn.
6. collaborate with others in learning about a new concept. Give students choices in collaboration with learning, perhaps with a virtual partner, groups of three, groups of two, or someone from another class.
7. manage their learning and work time. Allow students some choice in managing their work time some of the time. I witnessed an effective teacher enable her high school classes to manage their own work time three days out of the week, while she managed it the other two days as an entire group. Students paid better attention for the two days, knowing they had some ownership the remaining days.