Offering & Managing Student Choice

What is student choice?

Smiling student with bookStudent choice simply means giving students choices in how or what they learn.

Research shows time and time again that students can benefit in many ways from being offered academic choices, including greater completion of school assignments, a higher quality of work, and more favorable attitudes toward school & their work (Mizener & Williams, 2008).

Different types of choice

According to Katz & Assor (2007) and von Minzener & Williams (2009), there are four types of choice typically offered to students:

  • goal choice
  • assignment choice
  • choice of instructional support within assignments,
  • reward choice

Using choice as a motivator

Student sitting on stool in libraryResearch shows that students are more on task when allowed to make choices about their work, and that when choice is offered that meets the needs of the students, it can enhance motivation, learning, and well-being (Katz & Assor, 2007; von Minzener & Williams, 2009).

Offering choices can support the development of student autonomy, making it cognitively and emotionally beneficial, but when students make choices, those choices are affected by the students' perception of positive and negative characteristics of the task (Katz & Assor, 2007). Therefore, to motivate students, teachers should strive to offer options match with the developmental level of the students and that seem valuable to the students.

However, offering choice is not always a motivator and does not always enhance academic performance (Katz & Assor, 2007). There are some studies showing little to no academic benefit of student choice over teacher choice (von Minzener & Williams, 2009), meaning that offering choices is not always the best option. For choice to be a motivator, it should be grounded in a purposeful match between the various options and students’ needs, interests, goals, abilities, & cultural backgrounds (Katz & Assor, 2007), and it's a teacher's role to decide when choice is appropriate and when it is not.

Tools for offering & managing student choice

Consider allowing students to choose how they show their learning & mastery, in a way that allows them to put their best foot forward and shine. For instance, they can draw or collage in Google Drawings or in Google Jamboard. They can create an eBook using a slide deck presentation in Google Slides and then use Screencastify to record themselves presenting it. They can write in Google Docs or even create a multi-media poster in Google Slides, including videos and audio.

Formatting & sharing the choice options with students

Student choosing a marker from a cupYou can build interactive slide decks to offer students choices in activities or materials. These can range from Choose-Your-Own-Adventure types of activities to choice boards. Learn more about interactive uses of Slides.

Another way to organize options, especially if a lesson or activity has multiple steps or sets of choices, is to use Docs to create a HyperDoc. A HyperDoc is more than just a document with hyperlinks; it's a digital document where all the pieces of a learning cycle have been curated together in one central place, creating a space rich in hyperlinks to other materials, images, sites, text and video. Learn more about creating your own HyperDocs.

In Google Classroom, you can choose which students receive an assignment or material, simplifying the distribution of their chosen digital work or resources. Watch a video to learn more about assigning to individual students in Classroom.

Tailoring the options you offer by getting to know your students

Another way to know when and how to offer choice is to get to know your students. You can do this quickly and easily through Google Forms by gathering data directly from students. This can be information about their interests, perceived strengths & weaknesses, how they think they learn best, and prior experience or knowledge with the content. See an example of a student questionnaire or learn more about getting started with Google Forms.

References

Katz, I., & Assor, A. (2007). When choice motivates and when it does not. Educational Psychology Review, 19(4), 429-442.

von Minzener, B. H., & Williams, R. L. (2009). The effects of student choice on academic performance. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 11(2), 110-128.