Thursday, December 16, 2010

Power of Choice

There is a lot of talk about best practice in education right now and the changes that need to be made. First and foremost, the fact that we are at least thinking and talking about change this is a positive sign. In an effort to increase motivation and learning in my class we have been harnessing the power of choice. While this may seem like such a simple concept, the outcomes are simply amazing.


Many people are aware of Sugata Mitra’s work and his “Hole in the Wall” programs in India and his work in London. One of the basic premises behind his ideas is choice. Students are choosing what they researched based on what they were interested in and/or wanted to learn. This appears to be a very basic principle but with great impact.

Recently, a colleague of mine, Rob Hunt, and I have been letting go of control a bit in our classes. We have been giving students more freedom in their learning and it is largely based on choice. I have used this analogy before; we are giving kids the destination but not the turn by turn directions. Instead of lecturing to students or organizing a step-by-step project on a given topic, we are giving the students a topic and telling them to determine how they want to find, organize, and present their information. This is a concept that is being used in certain professional developments (@L_Hilt) and is the backbone of twitter (@PB_H).

With only a few times of this idea being used in our classroom, the results are amazing. Students are engaged throughout the entire time period we set for them to work and are often taking the work outside of the classroom. In one instance, I had students staying two hours after school while I held a basketball practice because they want to keep working. Many are choosing to work collaboratively and deepen their learning through constructive conversation. They are finding information and then synthesizing that information into a final product to serve of learning evidence. At the heart of it all is choice.

Next time you are writing a lesson plan, creating a project, or planning a staff development, ask yourself what role choice plays…the results are astounding.