Choice is Key

The curriculum is laid out. You know that you have taught the content with a lecture and a worksheet or with a project. So you know what it is coming up soon. But why do you need to keep doing it the same way? Is it because it is easier? Is it because it is what you have always done? If you have been keeping up with my blogs, you know where this is going. I try to be a creative teacher and allow students to have freedom with the content. So naturally choice is one of the key ideas I try to incorporate into my teaching.

Teaching, for me, has never been about standing in front of the room and giving the information. I do not believe that teaching in today’s world is at that point anymore. Student’s have access to a wealth of information at their fingertips and they are always connected somehow. It is almost impossible to teach without noticing students with headphones in or checking their phones. So why is it important to give them information that they could just as easily look up and figure it out themselves. This is where choice comes into play and allows students to capitalize on the fact that they have that information.

Choice is not only about changing the way you teach things, but expanding the students’ content knowledge about the subject. Allowing students to the opportunity to create is much more beneficial for students. It is not only more interesting and entertaining for the student but it is higher up on the Bloom’s Taxonomy scale anyway. So giving something like a project where there could be multiple outcomes allows students not only  to succeed but to also retain information more effectively. However, you can not continue to use the same type of choice every time either. Doing a powerpoint over something that is interesting may be good for one subject but not for every single thing. Using different approaches to achieve the goal of content retention is the most important.

Students being able  to choose what they want to learn about in a certain content area allows the students to actually have drive to use their resources for something that might interest them  instead of just something the state may think they need to know. But how do we do this? It is obviously harder for different content areas to allow students to choose what they think they should know. But giving them a more relatable questions or choice on how to solve problems. Relatable questioning is the easiest thing to do for me. I always try to connect content to either current events or to real life situations. In a history class, it is definitely easy to do that. Other subject areas may be more difficult, but not impossible.

For example, in a math class, even though word problems are never something the students are excited about, giving the students a problem that requires a little bit of research about something that may be related to them (like more economic problems, stats of professional sporting events, etc) would be a perfect example of giving the students choice as well as them using their resources. Giving more problems like this could allow students to feel more invested in the content. Even though this would take a long time to incorporate into someone’s solidified curriculum, it is absolutely important to include these types of questions.

Just because something is going to take a while to fully incorporate, does not mean you can’t make small changes to get towards your goal. Being flexible and being able to change is just as important as trying to do completely different approaches in your classroom. Overall, becoming more of a facilitator rather than a teacher is the best thing for most of the students (at least in my experience). This shift from teacher to facilitator has allowed my students to be much more successful in not only retaining the information, but enjoying class. Taking that shift little by little by including more student driven assignments will make the change a lot easier.

Choice will  always be hard to create on the fly. What type of project can I give that will allow them to choose what to learn? How will I grade these equally? What areas should I focus on? How often should I do this? There are no specific answers and it differs from teacher to teacher, style to style, and passion to passion. There is always a way to introduce choice. Feel free to comment and let me know how you have introduced more choice related assignments or ways you have allowed students to choose what to learn.