One of my most inspirational yearly projects is working on a team to plan and produce the student “voice” component of the district opening day. In one way or another we gather a sample of students and ask them to describe their most positive learning experiences. Each and every student in these interviews speaks of times when they were highly engaged and passionate about learning. They also speak of the conditions that best supported this deep learning. The “standout” conditions include having caring and passionate teachers, working on more in-depth projects, and having input and choice.
When I think of student choice I think of co-constructing the learning experience with students. Admittedly, accomplishing this takes some rethinking of traditional practices. Thankfully there is a whole continuum of strategies one can use to provide more student choice. The choices students described in the interviews fell far below co-construction and yet they still rose to the top of what students described as their best learning experiences. Students described how they felt more valued and trusted when they had choices and input. The choices students referenced included simple things such as choosing a research topic, choosing how to present (methodology), and choosing between several books or projects.
As we think about how to engage students in their own learning consider ways to increase the student voice and choice opportunities in your classroom. Moving from the simple to more complex with students as co-constructors of learning that includes student voice and choice in content, process, product, and evaluation.
For ideas on how to cultivate more voice and choice in your classroom check out this article 5 Ways to Give Your Students More Voice and Choice on EduTopia at: http://goo.gl/DDQeit.