Teaching How to Choose

20 Jan

Making good choices seems to come naturally for some students while others need deliberate coaching to become successful learners navigating the educational systems. By allowing choices we support our students’ self-efficacy. With choices we are communicating our confidence in our students. It is letting our students know that we believe they can learn, and that we are always happy to help them.

There are things in the classroom that must be done without getting into negotiations about how and why, and we truly cannot let students rule and do whatever they please in the classroom. However, allowing choices makes it emotionally easier for students to agree with the mandatory things. Yet, this is not the main benefit of teaching how to choose. Only through making choices we can train our executive functions and create accountability for our own learning [1]. Learning to make good choices is a just another skill to learn. Knowing how to make choices contributes to our higher-level thinking.  We should not deny our students this opportunity by having too rigid rules that allow no choices.

Choosing how to teach has an absolutely essential counterpart: teaching how to choose!

How to add more choices into your classroom?  During a regular day we have many opportunities to allow choices, starting from choosing whom to work with. By asking students to choose a partner who can help them in this assignment you are also encouraging students to recognize the good study habits of others. By providing a variety of assignments to choose from helps students to better articulate their competencies. By letting students choose which task they want to start with helps them understand their personal preferences.  By unpacking how decisions can be made and what we might want to think before choosing is a foundational skill in early grades. By asking students verbalize the steps they took while making a decision makes the process of choosing more visible. I think the ways of introducing more choices in learning environments are virtually infinite, if there is the will to make the change to happen.

Balance is important. If there are too many choices, students may become overwhelmed [2]. Embedding all three parts of Teachers’ Pedagogical Knowledge (TPK) framework to teacher training or PD is a way to ensure the necessary skills for fostering learning process by designing supportive instruction and assessment [2].When educators have enough knowledge of how to support students’ individual learning processes, embedding choices becomes much easier.

My personal credo about the best teacher being the one who makes herself unnecessary by empowering students become autonomous learners carries my values within it.  Our job is to help students to learn on their own, so that they can become life-long learners.

I believe, that only by allowing students to practice making good choices in an emotionally safe learning environment where their opinions or beliefs are never ridiculed, we can help the next generation reach their full potential and become critical thinkers. There is no shortcut to wisdom.

Other posts about choices:

Why choices are so important for learning process

Self-efficacy for deeper learning

Self-deternmination and learning process

Learner agency

🙂

Nina

[1] Patall, E. A., Cooper, H., & Robinson, J. C. (2008). The effects of choice on intrinsic motivation and related outcomes: a meta-analysis of research findings. Psychological bulletin, 134(2), 270.

[2] Iyengar, S. S., & Lepper, M. R. (2000). When choice is demotivating: Can one desire too much of a good thing?. Journal of personality and social psychology79(6), 995.

[3] Sonmark, K. et al. (2017), “Understanding teachers’ pedagogical knowledge: report on an international pilot study”, OECD Education Working Papers, No. 159, OECD Publishing, Paris. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/43332ebd-en

2 Responses to “Teaching How to Choose”

  1. amcgrann January 28, 2012 at 11:48 am #

    I couldn’t agree with you more about giving children the opportunities to choose, though for some, this can be quite an endeavor.

    Sheena Iyengar (author of the Art of Choosing) has a great TED Talk about choice fatigue and provides strategies on how we can choose better. There are some great ideas that I think could be adapted to a classroom. http://www.ted.com/talks/sheena_iyengar_choosing_what_to_choose.html

    Thanks for your post.

    • Nina January 28, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

      The link is very interesting, thank you! Making good choices is hard. But it is one skill that helps us be successful, and fortunately it also is a skill that can be learned. 🙂

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