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Student Voice & Choice in Modern Pedagogy

As a former student, you probably have vivid memories of your educational journey - the moments that made you feel excited and those that left you less than enthused. Do you recall that one exceptional teacher who granted you a degree of autonomy over your learning experience? For me, that exceptional educator was Casey Yandek, my 12th-grade English teacher. He managed to captivate our class's attention with the daunting task of delving into Shakespeare's masterpiece, Hamlet – a feat that's no small accomplishment with a group of seniors.

But how did he achieve this remarkable feat? He presented us with an enticing proposition: Once we had read the play and fulfilled the requisite assignments, we had the creative freedom to fashion our own final presentation, be it an essay, story, movie, or any other form of expression! (Our group made a movie, directed by one of my best friends Anthony Fanelli, and if my memory serves me right, it proudly clinched no fewer than 17 Academy Awards!)

Now, I must admit, if you happen to be an English Language Arts or Reading teacher, you might want to brace yourself. Hamlet happened to be the very first book that I successfully read cover-to-cover. Don’t judge me, okay?!

Mr. Yandek's contagious enthusiasm for the play transformed our perspective and ignited a newfound love for it. If you're an educator, you may find inspiration in Mr. Yandek's teaching approach.

And, if you are in search of methods to cultivate student ownership and foster engagement in your classroom, look no further than the powerful tools of student voice and choice. These versatile strategies provide students the opportunity to chart their own educational path, adaptable to any learning environment. Beyond nurturing an atmosphere of trust and respect, they have the potential to kindle heightened motivation and enhance academic achievement.

Together, voice and choice contribute to academic settings that are not just inclusive and equitable, but also deeply engaging and effective in preparing students for lifelong success.

In the ever-evolving landscape of education, I find it crucial to paint a vivid picture of a classroom where students are not just passive onlookers but the architects of their own learning journey. Imagine a place where they can confidently say, "I want to explore this" or "I'm passionate about that." This vision goes beyond mere ownership; it's about cultivating essential life skills and empowering students to shape their educational path, aligning with the principles of modern pedagogy, such as Project-Based Learning, Universal Design for Learning, and Blended Learning.

Girl giving a speech in a library.

The Distinct Powers of Student Voice & Student Choice in Modern Pedagogy

Student voice and student choice are critical factors in creating meaningful, engaging learning environments. Both empower learners to become active contributors to their own educational journey. This section delves into how these elements manifest in three popular pedagogical models—Project-Based Learning, Blended Learning, and Universal Design for Learning—to demonstrate their transformative potential in modern education.

Project-Based Learning (PBL)

Voice in PBL

Student voice in PBL goes beyond just allowing students to select their project topics. It's about creating a participatory culture where students' ideas, questions, and reflections shape the direction and outcomes of their projects. When students voice their curiosity, it ignites inquiry-based learning—a cornerstone of effective PBL. Moreover, integrating student voice sets the stage for authentic learning experiences. It allows learners to connect educational topics to real-world issues, thereby making the learning experience more relevant and impactful.

Choice in PBL

Choice in PBL takes many forms—choice of topic, choice of team members, choice of resources, and even choice of assessment formats. The power of choice is in its ability to drive student motivation and engagement. When students make decisions about their projects, they take on more responsibility for their own learning. This shift towards learner autonomy helps students develop important life skills like problem-solving, time management, and collaboration. It's not just about academic content; it's about cultivating the whole person.

For a deeper dive on Project-Based Learning by reading "Coffee, Collaboration, & Creativity: PBL's Perfect Blend."

Blended Learning

Voice in Blended Learning

In blended learning models, technology plays a critical role in amplifying student voice. Interactive online platforms offer avenues for students to share thoughts, ask questions, and collaborate outside the traditional classroom setting. Digital forums and chat rooms provide additional spaces where students can voice their thoughts asynchronously, giving them time to reflect before they contribute. On the offline side, in-class discussions and activities provide immediate, real-world opportunities for students to express themselves and interact with peers and educators.

Choice in Blended Learning

In a blended environment, choice permeates every aspect of the learning process. Online, students can choose from a variety of digital resources like videos, podcasts, or interactive quizzes. Offline, they have the option to participate in traditional classroom activities like lectures, group discussions, or lab experiments. This flexibility allows students to toggle between online and offline resources to create a learning experience that best suits their needs and learning preferences. The blend of online and offline options thus creates a more dynamic, responsive learning ecosystem.

For further insights on Blended Learning, explore "Transform Your Classroom With Blended Learning."

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Voice in UDL

In a UDL framework, the importance of student voice is recognized in the curriculum planning stage itself. Teachers can solicit student input on the types of materials and activities they find most engaging or effective. Furthermore, UDL acknowledges the variability among learners, valuing student voice as a critical source of insight into this diversity. This way, teaching becomes a dynamic, iterative process that responds to the collective voice of the student body, accounting for their varying needs and preferences.

Choice in UDL

UDL emphasizes offering multiple means of engagement, representation, and expression, inherently incorporating choice. It operates on the principle of "firm goals but flexible means," allowing educators to set consistent learning objectives while providing various pathways to achieve them. For example, students might choose to showcase their understanding through a video, an essay, or a hands-on project. They could also opt for a variety of methods to absorb new information. This flexibility contributes to what UDL refers to as "expert learning," equipping students with the skills to be purposeful and motivated, resourceful and knowledgeable, and strategic and goal-directed. These choices accommodate diverse learning needs, abilities, and interests, making education more equitable and inclusive.

Why Does This Matter?

The nuance in understanding voice and choice separately is crucial. Voice gives students the platform to be heard, to shape their learning environment, and to connect education with their lives and future careers. Choice grants them the autonomy to steer their own educational journey, enriching their experience and equipping them with skills they'll need in the real world. Together, voice and choice contribute to academic settings that are not just inclusive and equitable, but also deeply engaging and effective in preparing students for lifelong success.

Woman teacher helping male student.

Unlocking the Benefits of Voice & Choice

The concept of student voice and choice isn't just a fashionable trend in modern education; it has tangible, measurable benefits that are backed by scholarly research and real-world success stories. Here, we will delve into some of these crucial advantages, separating the unique contributions of voice and choice.

Autonomy, Authenticity, and Ownership

Student voice plays a vital role in creating a sense of autonomy and authenticity in the learning process. When students are encouraged to articulate their opinions, share their perspectives, and engage in dialogues, they transform from passive recipients to active participants in their education. The act of vocalizing their thoughts and feelings adds an authentic layer to their learning experience, cultivating a sense of ownership and personal connection to the material. In this environment, learning activities cease to be mere assignments and become genuine opportunities for meaningful growth.

Choice also contributes significantly to students' autonomy and ownership of their educational experience. When given the freedom to choose topics, methods, and even modes of assessment, students feel a heightened sense of agency. This autonomy serves as a powerful motivator, making learners more likely to engage deeply with educational activities. It helps them see these activities not as tasks to be completed, but as platforms for exploring their interests, applying their knowledge, and developing their skills.

Voice gives students the platform to be heard, to shape their learning environment, and to connect education with their lives and future careers.

Skills and Incentives

In models like PBL, Blended Learning, and UDL, the integration of student voice leads to the development of essential life skills. By encouraging students to express themselves, these pedagogical approaches transform them into diligent researchers, visionary creators, and effective communicators. Their voice also offers invaluable feedback that educators can use to adjust teaching methods, refine curricula, and even reimagine the education system. This mutual respect creates a collaborative culture that extends beyond the classroom, preparing students to be agents of change in their communities.

Choice plays a significant role in offering both intrinsic and extrinsic incentives for learning. Models like PBL provide a natural blend of behavior management principles with project management skills, while UDL seeks to make every student an expert learner. The freedom to select learning pace in blended learning models or choose project topics in PBL can make education more personally relevant, enhancing intrinsic motivation. On the flip side, offering a variety of assessment options or different ways to demonstrate knowledge can serve as extrinsic motivators. Striking a balance between these types of incentives is crucial, and choice provides the flexibility to do so.

As we've explored, incorporating student voice and choice into various educational models significantly enhances both the teaching and learning experience. But how can we practically implement these principles in a classroom setting to maximize engagement and personalized learning? One compelling approach that brings the theory to life is the use of choice boards. Choice boards are a concrete method for empowering students by giving them both a voice in their learning journey and multiple avenues for making choices.

Remember: 2 to 4! Studies have shown that this range of choices, 2-4, hits the sweet spot, avoiding the overwhelming choice paralysis that can come with too many options.

Choice Boards

In today's fast-paced, digitally connected world, the traditional "one-size-fits-all" approach to education is fading into the rearview mirror. Enter choice boards, a dynamic educational tool designed to empower both students and teachers by prioritizing choice, autonomy, and individual learning preferences. A seamless blend of Universal Design for Learning's removing barriers and Blended Learning's student agency, choice boards are revolutionizing classrooms by promoting active participation and tailored learning experiences. If you've ever wondered how to cultivate an educational environment where students are motivated, engaged, and in control of their learning journey, this is a tool you won't want to overlook.

Choice boards offer numerous benefits in education, primarily centered around motivation, engagement, and student agency. Students naturally gravitate towards having choices, much like perusing a menu at a favorite restaurant. Choice boards act as versatile tools, akin to the Swiss Army knife of teaching, allowing teachers to assess comprehension in various ways.

By granting students the autonomy to select their learning path, choice boards cultivate an environment of trust and respect in the classroom. This, in turn, enhances student ownership and engagement. Clearly defined expectations set the stage for higher motivation and academic success.

Choice boards also align with the concept of student agency, a vital component promoted by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). Student agency emphasizes self-awareness, self-management, and responsible decision-making—critical life skills. Choice boards bridge the gap between Universal Design for Learning and Blended Learning principles, empowering students to take control of their education. When students have agency, they can choose how and at what pace they learn, skyrocketing their engagement and motivation.

Teachers, too, benefit from choice boards. While students work on their choice boards, teachers can offer feedback, support, and closely monitor progress. This dynamic enables teachers to build stronger relationships with their students and move away from the repetitive task of grading numerous standardized assignments. Embracing choice boards transforms classrooms into dynamic, inclusive spaces where education becomes a joy, benefiting both students and teachers alike.

Choice grants students the autonomy to steer their own educational journey, enriching their experience and equipping them with skills they'll need in the real world.

Furthermore, choice boards provide a range of specific advantages, including promoting student autonomy, accommodating differentiated learning preferences and paces, fostering creative thinking and risk-taking, enhancing intrinsic motivation, facilitating targeted learning, enabling formative assessment, and offering flexibility with educational rigor.

Choice boards also teach students self-regulation, focus on skill development, personalize learning experiences, enable tailored review, encourage engagement, support self-assessment, and align with Universal Design for Learning principles, making them a powerful tool in modern education.

Moreover, choice boards extend learning beyond the classroom, promoting reinforcement and family bonding, imparting life skills, and providing a greater context for families to understand their children's education. These multifaceted benefits make choice boards a game-changer in the educational landscape, enriching the learning experience for all involved.

Students working on a collaborative project.

Types of Choice Boards

Now that you're eager to dive into the world of choice boards, let's explore the various types you can use to foster student ownership of learning. UDL emphasizes providing learners with multiple means of action and expression, and choice boards fit the bill perfectly. But remember, not every choice board works in every situation. Let's explore some options tailored to your unique needs and preferences.

Free Choice Boards

  • Students have already mastered the material; and

  • You and/or students are new to choice boards.

Free choice boards are open and free for the students (and teacher) to figure out what works best for them. They are used when you want to try out something new in the classroom. The focus should be on the choice, more so than on the standards.

For teachers who are new to the world of choice boards, I often recommend starting with a beginner's approach. Begin with a topic that has already been taught, and then offer students 2 options to apply and extend their learning. It's a manageable starting point that allows both teachers and students to dip their toes into the waters of choice boards, building confidence along the way.

In the realm of choice boards, "free choice" is where the magic happens, especially when students have already mastered the material. Think of it as granting them the keys to unlock their own learning kingdom. It's an invitation to explore, experiment, and figure things out on their own. Now, you might be thinking, "What about the unexpected outcomes?" Well, in a project-based learning classroom, we embrace those unexpected moments because we know that failure is just another stepping stone on the path to discovery.

Types of Activities to Include in Free Choice Boards

  • Research Projects: Encourage students to delve into a topic related to the material but not directly covered in class.

  • Creative Endeavors: Whether it's painting, coding, or writing a story, allowing students to get creative can further deepen their understanding.

  • Peer Teaching: Students can prepare a mini-lesson on a specific aspect of the material to teach their peers.

  • Multimedia Presentations: Students could create a video, podcast, or slideshow summarizing what they have learned.

  • Community Outreach: Perhaps they could develop a community service project that aligns with the material they have mastered.

  • Skill-building Exercises: For subjects like math or languages, more advanced problems or sentences to translate can be offered.

  • Debate or Discussion Topics: Students could select a topic related to the material and either prepare for a debate or lead a discussion.

  • Personal Reflection: Students can write or record a reflection on their learning journey for the specific topic.

  • Virtual Field Trips: Students can explore a virtual field trip related to the subject material and report back on their findings.

  • Mind Maps: Students could create mind maps to visually organize information about a topic, making connections between themes, ideas, or facts.

  • Escape Room Challenges: For a gamified approach, students could either create or solve an 'escape room' scenario focused on the subject matter.

  • Ethical Dilemmas: In subjects like social studies or science, pose ethical questions for students to research and debate, encouraging critical thinking.

  • Real-world Application: Students can identify and document how the subject matter is used in the real world, perhaps even interviewing professionals in the field related to the subject.

Pitfalls to Avoid with Free Choice Boards

  • Overwhelming Choices: While it's a free board, too many options can be paralyzing.

  • Unclear Instructions: Make sure the tasks are clear to avoid any confusion.

  • Lack of Follow-through: Ensure there is a system to track completion and assess the work done.

Learning Goals or Standards-Based Choice Boards

  • Students have already mastered the material; and

  • You want to reinforce the learning goal or standards; and/or

  • You want to try out new choices.

These choice boards are fantastic for allowing students to demonstrate their mastery of a standard, skill, or learning goal in multiple ways. But here's the catch: while offering choices, keep the focus on the standards. Offer options that allow students to show their understanding creatively.

Scaffolding is key when using new choices within choice boards. Provide resources that can help students on their path of trying out the new choice. If a student wants to create a podcast but hasn't done it before, provide resources like articles, videos, templates, and examples. This way, they can still be creative while demonstrating their understanding of the standard.

Types of Activities to Include

  • Interactive Quizzes: Designed to test students' understanding of a particular standard or learning goal.

  • Infographics: Students can create visual representations of data or concepts aligned with the learning goals.

  • Mind Maps: For conceptual subjects, a mind map can be an excellent way to display understanding.

  • Demonstration Videos: Students could demonstrate a skill or process aligned with the standard.

  • Argumentative Essays: For standards that require critical thinking, an essay can be an excellent choice.

  • Practical Application Tasks: Tasks that require students to apply their knowledge in real-world scenarios related to the standard.

  • Literature Reviews: For older students, analyzing scholarly articles related to the standard can be an insightful activity.

  • Case Studies: Analyzing real or hypothetical scenarios can help in demonstrating an understanding of complex subjects.

  • Oral Presentations: Students can prepare and give a presentation about a specific standard or learning goal, explaining key concepts and their relevance.

  • Role-Playing/Simulations: Create role-playing scenarios or simulations related to the standard, where students can immerse themselves in real-world situations to demonstrate understanding.

  • Math Problems or Scientific Experiments: For STEM subjects, students could solve advanced math problems or conduct scientific experiments to demonstrate mastery.

  • Interactive Timelines: Students could create a digital or physical timeline outlining the historical events, theories, or processes relevant to the standard.

  • Peer-led Workshops: Students can design and lead a workshop aimed at teaching their peers about a particular aspect of the standard.

  • Blog Posts or Podcast Episodes: Students could write blog posts or create podcast episodes explaining key elements of the standard, perhaps even interviewing experts on the topic.

  • Storyboards or Comic Strips: For visual learners, designing a storyboard or comic strip to represent key concepts or events can be both fun and educational.

Pitfalls to Avoid with Standards-Based Choice Boards

  • Off-Topic Choices: Ensure all choices directly relate to the learning goal or standard.

  • Insufficient Resources: Provide enough support materials, as you mentioned, especially for new choices.

  • Unaligned Activities: Avoid activities that may seem engaging but don't directly contribute to the learning goals.

Do you recall that one exceptional teacher who granted you a degree of autonomy over your learning experience?

Strategy or Skills-Based Choice Board

  • Students may or may not have already mastered the material.

  • You want to focus on specific skills or strategies with the students.

These choice boards offer a range of strategies for tackling different situations. For example, you might have taught your students various graphic organizers, such as Venn Diagrams, Spider Maps, and Sequence Chains. With these choice boards, you can let students choose the graphic organizer that suits their learning need or task. It's like giving them a toolbox and letting them pick the right tool for the job.

This choice promotes independence, self-regulation, and creativity. Students get to explore and experiment with different strategies, gaining insights into what works best for them. It's a win-win for both educators and learners.

Types of Activities to Include in Skills-Based Choice Boards

  • Problem-Solving Tasks: Present students with complex problems that require the use of specific strategies to solve.

  • Simulation Games: Games that mimic real-world situations can help students apply various strategies.

  • Role-Plays: For subjects like social studies or language arts, role-playing can be an excellent way to employ specific skills.

  • Interactive Journals: Students document their thought processes and strategies as they approach different tasks.

  • Worksheets: Provide worksheets that focus on practicing specific skills or strategies.

  • Scavenger Hunts: A fun, interactive way for students to employ various skills or strategies to find clues or solve problems.

  • Group Challenges: Team activities where each member has to apply a specific skill or strategy to achieve a common goal.

  • Self-Assessments: Tools for students to evaluate their own skill levels and areas where they need to employ new strategies.

  • Analyze and Critique: Students can watch a video, read an article, or examine a case study and then provide a critique focusing on the strategies or skills employed. This activity helps in honing critical thinking and analytical skills.

  • Coding Challenges: For subjects that involve computational thinking or computer science, students could engage in coding challenges that require them to employ particular problem-solving strategies or programming skills.

  • Mock Interviews: In subjects like language arts or social studies, students can conduct mock interviews employing effective communication strategies, whether it's for a job, a historical figure, or a character from a book.

  • Visual Storytelling: Students use platforms like Storyboard That or other digital tools to create a visual narrative that requires the application of storytelling skills, such as sequencing, character development, or plot design.

Pitfalls to Avoid in Skills-Based Choice Boards

  • Over-Complication: Be careful not to overwhelm students with too many choices or overly complex activities.

  • Lack of Alignment: Ensure that the skills or strategies chosen are directly related to the learning objectives.

  • Inadequate Guidance: Make sure to provide adequate instructions and resources for each strategy or skill.

Practice or Review Choice Boards

  • Students have already mastered the material; and

  • You want to reinforce the learning goal or standards; and/or

  • You want to review the material.

When it comes to exam prep or review, students often benefit from a variety of options that align with their learning preferences. Instead of sticking to a static study guide, why not offer a range of options? They can engage in gamified learning experiences, watch relevant videos, or complete packets – the choice is theirs.

This approach aligns perfectly with the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principle, which promotes equitable learning by offering multiple means of representation. It's all about giving students the flexibility to choose the approach that works best for them and enhances their understanding of the material.

Types of Activities to Include in Review Choice Boards

  • Flashcards: An old but effective method catering to memorization and repetition.

  • Interactive Quizzes: Self-paced and instant feedback can suit a variety of learners.

  • Peer Review Sessions: Great for those who prefer to learn socially and verbally, offering active engagement.

  • Summary Sheets: A condensed, organized way of revisiting material, beneficial for logical learning.

  • Concept Maps: Those who want to review in a visual manner can benefit greatly from this spatial representation of knowledge.

  • Podcast or Audio Notes: This helps students who prefer an auditory option to review material in a format that suits them best.

  • Journal Entries: Allows for introspection and suits linguistic and intrapersonal reviewing.

  • Timed Drills: Good for logical or mathematical reviews where the learner might thrive on speed and accuracy.

  • Artistic Summaries: For those who prefer visual/spatial reviews, this taps into their creativity and imagination.

  • Debate or Panel Discussion: Ideal for interpersonal learning for students who benefit from social interaction and debate.

  • Virtual or Augmented Reality Experiences: Captures the attention of tech-savvy and experiential learners, making review immersive.

  • Coding Exercises: Appeals to logical/mathematical learners and integrates technology skills into the review process.

Pitfalls to Avoid in Review Choice Boards

  • Unfocused Choices: Make sure each activity directly contributes to reinforcing the material or skills at hand.

  • Time-Consuming Activities: The aim is to review, so avoid overly complex tasks that could take too much time.

  • Cognitive Overload: Choice is good, but too many options can overwhelm, particularly during review periods.

In the ever-evolving landscape of education, I find it crucial to paint a vivid picture of a classroom where students are not just passive onlookers but the architects of their own learning journey.

Feedback Choice Boards

  • You are looking to provide feedback for the students.

In the realm of personalized education, feedback choice boards stand out as an innovative way to engage students in the assessment process. By allowing students to select how they'd like to receive feedback on their work, teachers empower them to take an active role in their learning journey. This not only tailors the educational experience to individual learning needs but also fosters a sense of agency and ownership. It's a win-win that aligns well with modern pedagogical approaches, like Universal Design for Learning, making learning more equitable and impactful for all students.

Types of Activities to Include with Feedback Choice Boards

  • Written Feedback: For learners who prefer reading and analyzing comments.

  • Private Verbal Feedback: For those who understand better through dialogue.

  • Public Verbal Feedback: For students comfortable with group feedback.

  • Audio Feedback (e.g., Mote): For learners who prefer listening.

  • Video Feedback (e.g., Kami or Flip): For learners who prefer listening and/or seeing.

  • Mixed-Methods Feedback: A customizable blend of the above.

Pitfalls to Avoid with Feedback Choice Boards

  • Overwhelm: Too many options can confuse both teachers and students. Limit choices to a manageable number.

  • Inconsistency: Ensure that whichever method chosen still aligns with the criteria used for assessments.

  • Technological Barriers: Make sure all students have access to the technology needed for certain types of feedback.

Family Choice Boards

  • The teacher wants to get the family involved.

  • You can do a variety of previously mentioned choice boards here.

Learning doesn't have to stop when students leave the classroom. Family choice boards encourage students and their families to collaborate on various activities, from practice work to test reviews. However, it's crucial to consider each student's resources, such as internet access and technology, to ensure equal participation.

By using this approach, students can reinforce their learning with the help of their family members, creating a supportive and engaging learning environment outside of the classroom.

Types of Activities to Include with Family Choice Boards

  • Creative Projects: Families can work together to create a relevant art project or model.

  • Reading Aloud: One family member reads to others and then discusses the material.

  • Educational Games: Board games or online games that reinforce classroom learning.

  • Nature Scavenger Hunts: A fun and educational activity that can involve the whole family.

  • Cooking Together: Making a recipe while incorporating lessons in measurement, chemistry, or culture.

  • Virtual Museum Tours: Families can take a virtual tour of a museum related to current classroom topics and discuss what they've learned.

  • DIY Science Experiments: Simple science experiments can be done at home with everyday materials, reinforcing scientific concepts.

  • Community Service: A family outing to engage in community service can teach social responsibility and the importance of giving back.

  • Local History Exploration: A visit to a local historical site or even an online exploration of local history can deepen understanding of social studies topics.

  • Math Challenges: Families can solve math puzzles or engage in real-world math problems, like budgeting for grocery shopping.

  • Film Night with a Twist: Watch an educational film or documentary and hold a family discussion about its themes and how they relate to classroom learning.

  • Global Cuisine Night: Choose a country to explore and make a traditional dish from that country, learning about its culture and geography in the process.

  • Storytelling Time: Family members can take turns telling or writing a story, focusing on narrative elements like setting, characters, and plot.

  • Skill Swap: Each family member teaches the rest of the family something new, whether it's a practical skill, a game, or an academic subject.

  • Stargazing: An evening spent identifying constellations can be both educational and a bonding experience.

Pitfalls to Avoid with Family Choice Boards

  • Equity Issues: Not all students have access to the same resources; offer a range of activities that require varying levels of material and time.

  • Overwhelm: Keep tasks manageable so that they are feasible for busy families.

  • Lack of Clarity: Instructions should be straightforward so that families understand the objectives.

Students working with their teacher on math blocks.

Tips for Creating Effective Choice Boards

Now that we've explored the wonderful world of choice boards, it's essential to know how to create effective ones. Customizing the learning experience to meet the needs of all learners is our ultimate goal, and choice boards can be a powerful tool when wielded correctly.

Offer Meaningful Choices

  • Provide students with choices that align with the learning goals and standards.

  • Offer a variety of options that cater to different learning preferences.

  • Give the students a voice and ask the students what they may want.

  • Research indicates that 2 to 4 choices work best.

Remove Barriers

  • Provide scaffolds and supports like checklists or mini-lessons to help students who may struggle with the content or require additional guidance.

  • Be mindful of students' access to technology, materials, and time to ensure equitable learning opportunities.

  • Consider providing offline or low-tech alternatives for students who may not have consistent internet access.

  • Be sensitive to cultural differences that may affect students' engagement or comfort level with certain activities. For example, some cultures may not be comfortable with activities that require sharing personal stories or beliefs.

  • Take into account economic disparities by offering choices that don't require additional purchases or resources that some families might not be able to afford.

  • Offer flexible timing or due dates for assignments, recognizing that students may have varying home responsibilities or access to resources.

Invite Students to Create and Design

  • Encourage students to express their creativity and personalize their learning experience through open-ended questions or creative endeavors.

  • Provide guidance and resources like articles, videos, and templates to help them achieve their goals.

  • Allow students to express their voices by letting them choose their own activities or projects as an option on the choice board.

Help Students Make Meaning and Demonstrate Learning

  • Clearly communicate learning goals and expectations to ensure students know what is required of them.

  • Provide exemplars and models of what is expected to offer a concrete understanding of the standards.

  • Create rubrics with students to help them understand how they will be assessed and what criteria will be used.

  • Offer opportunities for peer and self-assessment to promote metacognition and reflection on their learning journey.

Girl presenting in front of her class.

Various Pathways to Show Learning

When designing a choice board, it's important to provide a variety of formats for students to demonstrate their learning. Some examples include:

  • Annotated Bibliography: A curated list of resources, each accompanied by a summary and reflection, demonstrating understanding and engagement with the topic.

  • Artistic Representation: A painting, drawing, or sculpture that encapsulates the essence of the subject matter.

  • Assessment: A traditional test or quiz designed by the student to gauge the class's understanding of the subject matter.

  • Blog Post: A written, video, or multimedia blog capturing key takeaways and personal reflections on the subject matter.

  • Case Study: An in-depth examination of a particular situation or problem, often incorporating real-world applications of the subject matter.

  • Collage: A combination of various forms of media like photographs, articles, or icons that revolve around a central theme.

  • Concept Map: A diagram that visually organizes information, showing the relationships between different ideas.

  • Debate: Written or oral arguments defending or opposing a particular perspective related to the subject.

  • Digital Portfolio: A curated collection of student work, such as essays, projects, and other assignments, organized in a digital format that can be easily shared and navigated.

  • Digital Storytelling: A short narrative made up of digital media, such as images, sound, and video, to convey a message or explain a concept.

  • Documentary: A short film that explores a topic deeply, often involving research, interviews, and narrative storytelling.

  • Diorama: A three-dimensional model that captures a scene, concept, or historical moment.

  • Exit Ticket: A quick, informal assessment at the end of a lesson where students jot down something they learned, a question they have, or a reflection on the session.

  • Field Report: A detailed account of observations made during fieldwork or an external study.

  • Flowchart or Mind Map: A graphical organization of concepts, ideas, or steps related to the subject, aiding in better understanding and retention.

  • Game Design: Creating a simple board game, card game, or digital game that helps players learn or review aspects of the subject.

  • Graphic Novel: A comic-style representation that narrates an aspect of the subject matter through a combination of text and illustrations.

  • Infographic: A visual representation of information or data that helps simplify complex concepts.

  • Interactive Quiz: A student-generated quiz that showcases important elements from the subject, testing both knowledge and understanding.

  • Interactive Timeline: A chronological representation of events or milestones related to the subject, which can be clicked through for more information.

  • Interactive Webpage: Students code and design a simple webpage that covers various aspects of a topic, complete with links, images, and maybe even interactive elements like quizzes.

  • Journal Article: Similar to a white paper but formatted and written as if it were to be published in an academic journal.

  • Live Performance: Whether a skit, dance, or musical performance, students can express their understanding of a subject through live art.

  • Musical Composition: An original song or instrumental piece focused on the themes or concepts of the subject matter.

  • Newsletter: A periodical publication that covers various aspects of a topic, designed in a visually appealing manner.

  • Pecha Kucha Presentation: A concise presentation format that utilizes 20 slides displayed for 20 seconds each, compelling the presenter to be concise and impactful.

  • Peer Review: Students critique and review a classmate's project or assignment, demonstrating their own understanding by assessing someone else's.

  • Photo Essay: A series of photographs that either tell a story or demonstrate a concept related to the topic.

  • Physical Model: A 3D model or diorama illustrating a concept or subject, whether built from physical materials or designed digitally.

  • Podcast: An audio recording where the student discusses a topic, possibly including interviews with classmates or experts.

  • Podcast Interview: An interview-style podcast where students act as the host and interview peers or experts on the topic.

  • Poster: A visual display that succinctly presents information and can be either physical or digital.

  • Q&A Panel: Students prepare and participate in a panel discussion, taking turns as both experts and interviewers on the topic at hand.

  • Radio Show: An audio presentation, possibly live-streamed, that can include interviews, news, and music related to the topic.

  • Role-Playing Game: A simulation that places students in scenarios related to the subject matter, requiring them to apply their learning in action.

  • Simulation Script: A written plan for a simulation or role-playing game that places participants in scenarios related to the subject matter.

  • Slideshow: A simpler form of a multimedia presentation, focused primarily on slides to convey information, concepts, or processes.

  • Social Media Campaign: A series of posts designed for platforms like Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook that inform, engage, or advocate for an issue related to the subject matter.

  • Storyboard: A series of panels or images that outline a narrative related to the subject matter, either digitally or on paper.

  • Ted Talk or Video: A recorded presentation where the student discusses key aspects of a topic, incorporating both facts and personal insights.

  • Vlog: A video blog where the student discusses what they've learned, adding a personal touch.

  • Virtual Tour: A digital walkthrough of a location, historical period, or concept, complete with annotations and embedded media.

  • Webinar: A live or recorded online presentation where the student explores a topic and engages with an audience.

  • White Paper: A formal document that goes in-depth into a specific topic, providing evidence and logical arguments to support its points.

  • Whatever you (or the students) can think of!

Pathways To Show Learning in Voice and Choice

Choice Board Mediums and Platforms

Choice boards offer flexibility in implementation, as they can adapt to diverse learning preferences and objectives. When selecting the medium, it's crucial to ensure accessibility for all students and to ensure that both you and the students are proficient in navigating and utilizing the platform. Here are some commonly used mediums for educational choice boards:

  • Paper-Based Choice Boards: Traditional choice boards can be created on paper and distributed to students. Students can then use stickers, markers, or other tools to indicate their choices.

  • Digital Documents: Choice boards can be created using software like Microsoft Word or Google Docs. Students can type or insert images to make their selections.

  • Interactive PDFs: Create choice boards as interactive PDFs, allowing students to click or tap on their choices and even submit them electronically. Genially works great for this.

  • Google Slides or PowerPoint: Design choice boards using presentation software. Each choice can be a clickable link or button leading to additional resources or activities.

  • Online Platforms: Dedicated online platforms and tools, such as Canva, Book Creator, Padlet, or Wakelet, provide templates and features to create interactive choice boards.

  • Learning Management Systems (LMS): Many LMS like Canvas, Moodle, and Google Classroom may have built-in features to create and manage choice boards within the platform.

  • Websites and Blogs: Teachers can create web pages or blog posts with embedded choice boards using HTML or website builders like Wix or Squarespace.

  • Video Platforms: Teachers can create video choice boards using platforms like YouTube or Flip, where they present choices verbally and link to different video resources.

  • Apps and Learning Software: Some educational apps and software offer choice board functionality, making it easy for students to select activities within the app.

  • Physical Materials: In hands-on or experiential learning environments, physical materials like cards, tokens, or manipulatives can be used for choice boards.

  • QR Codes: Teachers can create choice boards with QR codes that link to digital resources when scanned by students' devices.

  • Augmented Reality (AR): Implement choice boards in an AR environment, where students use AR apps like ARKit or ARCore to interact with digital choices overlaid on the physical world.

  • Audio Choice Boards: Provide audio recordings of choices using Mote for students with visual impairments or those who prefer auditory learning.

  • Collaborative Online Whiteboards: Platforms like FigJam, or Miro can be used for collaborative choice boards where students can add their choices and ideas.

  • Social Media: Teachers can use platforms like X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, or Instagram to post choice board options and engage students in discussions or activities related to their choices.

  • Gamified Platforms: Gamification platforms like Quizizz, Blooket, or Quizlet can be used to create interactive choice board-style quizzes and activities.

Choice Board Mediums and Platforms

Amplifying the Resonance of Voice & Choice

As we reflect on our educational journeys, we're often reminded of those transformative moments when our voices resonated, and our choices were valued. These instances aren't mere nostalgia; they are the building blocks of modern pedagogy. By bestowing upon students the autonomy of voice and choice, we aren't merely transferring knowledge; we are nurturing the thinkers, creators, and innovators of tomorrow.

In Mr. Yandek's 12th-grade English class, it was more than just Shakespeare; it was about recognizing and harnessing the untapped potential within each student. This echoes the essence of modern pedagogical models like Project-Based Learning (PBL), Universal Design for Learning (UDL), and Blended Learning. In PBL, students exercise their voice not only in selecting project topics but in shaping the direction and outcomes of their projects, fostering inquiry-based learning. Choice in PBL extends beyond topics to team members, resources, and assessment formats, instilling crucial life skills.

Similarly, UDL acknowledges the importance of student voice in curriculum planning, making teaching a dynamic, iterative process that responds to the collective voice of the student body. Choice in UDL is inherent, offering multiple means of engagement, representation, and expression. This flexibility accommodates diverse learning needs, abilities, and interests, making education more equitable and inclusive.

In the landscape of Blended Learning, technology amplifies student voice through interactive online platforms and offline discussions. Choice permeates every aspect of the learning process, allowing students to tailor their education to their needs and preferences, creating a dynamic, responsive learning ecosystem.

These modern pedagogical approaches recognize that education is not about conformity but about individuality. It's about amplifying voices, respecting choices, and fostering a sense of ownership in every student. As educators, our mission is to take inspiration from these models and champion the principles of voice and choice. In doing so, we co-create a future of education that is vibrant, adaptive, and ever-evolving.

Educators are able to redesign classrooms into spaces where students are not confined by set paths but have the freedom to influence their own learning experiences through voice and choice. By embracing new ideas within modern pedagogy, all while considering the input and preferences of our students, we lay the foundation for a more promising future in education.


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