One of the hallmarks of a student-centered classroom is student agency. Effective learning happens in a meaningful and relevant context, in which students have voice and choice in the learning process. This helps to move the teacher from the center of the learning, and places students at the center.
This often seems like a lofty, unrealistic goal. We often hear of things like this in hypothetical contexts from people who haven’t had a class list of students in many years. But it is possible–and it is imperative that we work toward this in 21st century classrooms with 21st century kids.
One of the most practical ways to take steps toward increasing student agency is with the use of “choice boards”. Choice boards are nothing new, but they do help to take the theoretical ideas of allowing student choice and make them real.
Here are a couple examples of student choice boards you might think of using as models.
A choice board like the one above could be used with almost any lesson or objective in any class. Notice that it contains multiple elements, incorporates the possibility of using technology (or no technology), and a variety of other output formats that could all accomplish the learning objective.
Below is another choice board that could be used in the context of a reading activity, specifically.
Fostering student voice and choice in the learning environment is the key to student engagement and rich learning in the 21st century. The fact of the matter is that, as teachers, we can work very hard to prepare our lessons and collect the materials for learning. But without offering choice, we can cause aversions in our students and actually foster resistance to learning. As Michele Eaton suggests in her book, The Perfect Blend, “To some extent, I would argue that it is not enough to even create incredible assessments or projects. It is not enough to find the highest-quality interactive content to create beautiful, interactive digital content. By not giving the students any choice, even the best lesson ever written could be received poorly by students because they were not given a choice.”
Instructional Technology Coach
Bob Harrison is the secondary Instructional Technology Coach for the Dearborn Public Schools. He has over 16 years of experience teaching science in high school and middle school, and has supported teachers, administrators, and students as the Tech Coach since 2015.
Bob is a member of ISTE and a participant in multiple online professional learning networks of instructional technology specialists. He tweets regularly from @bharrisonEDU, and co-hosts the podcast ArchiTECHs of Learning, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and Stitcher.
Bob lives in Dearborn, Michigan with his wife and 4 kids.