Pathways to Authentic Student Choice

My name is Tracie DaSilva.  I teach a Technology Innovations class to 5th grade students at Mills Elementary.  I am currently finishing up my fourth and final micro-credential in my Leadership Pathways for Transformative Technology. 

I use blended learning models in my class which allows my students to have a balanced mix of online and offline instruction. 

This includes a variation of the Station Rotation Model that includes a Teacher-led Station, where lessons objectives are introduced and demonstrated, a Student Practice Station, where students can build

on their skills, collaborate with their peers, and choose their project paths, and an Online Station where students can review lesson content and objectives, explore choices for further learning, and complete their projects outside of class time.  I also use a Flipped Classroom Model of blended learning where students can review the lesson introductions and objectives in BLEND before coming to my class, and then use class time for individual instruction and review, and receive feedback, interventions, and help on their projects.

Throughout the Leadership Pathway, my main focus has been on providing Authentic Student Choice in my classroom.  Before starting on this Pathway, my style of teaching was very Teacher-centered – I talk, you listen, you do.  My students completed the assignments, but they were not engaged or invested in the content –  they did not have a personal investment and almost never did more than the requirements set on the assignments.  Once I started introducing more choices to my students, I immediately saw a change.  I started providing students with project choices that included must-dos and detailed rubrics, but also with added may-dos and add-ons.  I allowed students to incorporate personal interests into their projects, including favorite animals or book characters.  They were allowed choices on how they learned the new lesson content – whether by following along with me as I demonstrated new techniques in Photoshop or Scratch Coding, or by learning at their own pace using the lesson objectives I provided for them in our BLEND course.  They could watch me and follow along, they could watch a recorded video tutorial and work at their own pace, or they could collaborate with their peers and work on projects together.

My students design and create as part of their learning process.  Each technology lesson includes a project where the students get to demonstrate their mastery of that lesson’s objectives.  Students get to choose how they demonstrate their learning by their project choices.  For example, during our Photoshop lesson, students could choose whether to create a Perspective Merge from two or more different images, or create an Animal Morph of two or more different animals.   I was hesitant at first to show students examples of finished projects from previous years because I was afraid it would limit the students’ creativity.  But I was pleasantly surprised that the opposite happened – by showing students examples of what mastery looked like, students could choose to go above and beyond the assignment requirements. 

Digital Citizenship is reviewed in each lesson with emphasis on SEL skills while online and while critiquing each other’s digital submissions.  Students were reminded for each unit to be mindful while online and to never give out personal or identifying information. 

Students were responsible and kind to each other both in class and online and did not allow for negative comments for online projects. They were also responsible for crediting the source of online intellectual property of others if they used another person’s ideas when creating their coding projects or used copyrighted or restricted images in their projects.

My students have loved having more choices in how they learn – whether teacher-led, self-paced, or in group collaborations, in when they learn – whether during class time, or at home by reviewing the BLEND modules, and in what they learn – whether just the content I present to them, or by going further with the links and resources I provide them.  I hope to add more student choices in my future classes and I highly encourage other classroom teachers to incorporate more student choice into their own lesson plans.  When students have choices in their learning, they feel empowered and invested in their learning.  The results you see will speak for themselves.

1 Comment

  1. Such a great testimonial about the Leadership Pathway of Transformative Tech and even more, a great insight to the uncertainty so many educators have when making the shift from teacher-centered instruction to student-centered learning. The ways you provided student choices in how they learned while still being in control of what they learned is a great example of how learning can be personalized to increase student engagement and therefore enhance productivity. It’s been a true joy to learn alongside you as you have progressed through all four semesters of the LP program. Thank you for sharing your stories!

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