Letting Them Choose

EVERY DAY for CHOICE by Jenn Farr
EVERY DAY for CHOICE, a photo by Jenn Farr on Flickr.

I have discovered, during my most recent attempts to give students the ability to choose the way they will show me their learning, that many of my students will just choose what they have always done. The easiest way. Not the way that would best showcase what they’ve learned, or their particular skill set.

In June I assigned what I thought would be a pretty cool final project in social studies. They were to compare and contrast the three societies that we had studied in grade 8 Social Studies (Renaissance Europe, Japan – Edo-Meiji Period, and Aztecs vs Spanish) as well as interview a person who had grown up in a different decade than them about their Worldviews. The assignment can be found here on google docs. As you can see, I gave them a number of different options for how this would be presented to the class. I honestly thought that they would come up with more original, more interesting options than the ones I gave. I thought that they would seek out new and exciting ways to show what they know. Well I couldn’t have been more wrong. There were eight groups and all but two of them chose to use a trifold or do a powerpoint. In truth, the presentations were quite boring and although they did know the information, I could tell that none of them had enjoyed the assignment.

When reflecting on the assignment, I realized a few things:

1. It was a boring assignment with little critical thinking involved at all.

2. I was the one who gave them the option. I put it out there for them to choose.

3. As this is the first time I have given this kind of choice, I do not have any previous examples for students to see.