Making Choice Real

As I’ve read some fun books about making the tasks we do in school more authentic/genuine/engaging, one common theme is student choice. Image

But …

How do we make choice consistently meaningful? There are a few projects I do already where choice is (fairly) meaningful. When we study data for our Exhibition, students get to choose one of the variables they are investigating (and their choices range from % of population in prison, to MCAS scores, to physicians/1000 people). That choice seems meaningful. Often I allow students to choose a method for solving; that also seems meaningful.

But when I imagine students working on the everyday tasks next year, I struggle to imagine how choice could work. Here are my concerns.

First, I’m banking heavily on students completing tasks in different ways and teaching each other those ways in order to meet a myriad of Algebra standards. How will students compare methods if everyone is doing different problems? Perhaps it’d be fine if a critical mass of students were doing each problem and then together had to come up with a variety of methods.

Second, how in the world do we make the choice meaningful? Say I do put out 4 different word problems — what’s the process for having students read all the problems and having them choose the one that would be most interesting/accessible for them?

Literally as I’m writing this, I’m thinking to myself, well, it seems I do have a plan …

1) Offer choice in topic when it makes sense (i.e. Exhibition).

2) Choice in method is a fundamental value and so will (almost?) always be assumed.

3) Choice in task is perhaps most meaningful for me when there are few enough choices that student-to-student teaching can happen and when the choices are quickly processed by students (so more visual or topical than verbal).

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One thought on “Making Choice Real

  1. I too, love the notion of choice. When a group of students are tasked with creating a poster from aroblem, isn’t a lot of what they write their choice? My dream is stations. 4 stations, everyone needs to get to all 4…okay 5 stations with a free choice one…how would you grade/ keep everyone accountable for all the products?

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