How can I use Academic Choices to help Students stay Motivated?

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Check Out the New Blog Letting students make academic choices in the classroom helps to empower them.Academic choices are used within a classroom to foster active learning among students. Teachers decide the goals of a particular lesson and students are given various options on how to go about learning them. The ultimatum is that the goals should be achieved, irrespective of the option the student makes use of.

Academic choices are usually structured options designed by the teachers. Writing reports, pictorial representations, flow charts, roleplays, practical demonstrations, watching videos or listening to educational audios, are some of the few choices that you can be incorporated in your curriculum. Plan choices based on the general abilities of your class and structure them according to the goals that need to be achieved.  Also be practical and creative while designing the choices.

For e.g. if you are teaching a lesson on photosynthesis, your goals for that lesson is that the child should know about the process and the factors necessary for photosynthesis to take place. The following can be some choices made available to the students:

  • Write a report on the process of photosynthesis and the factors affecting them
  • Make a pictorial representation / flow chart of the same and highlight the factors
  • Practical demonstration of photosynthesis.

How do academic choices promote learning?

Children love options as it empowers them. Use of academic choices within a classroom will, therefore, motivate and energize them and they will be more productive. It gives the child a sense of purpose and drives them to be more creative and resourceful.  As the method of learning is of his interest, the child will be encouraged to make best use of his skills to achieve his goals. Thus the student is intrinsically motivated and will work harder towards his goals.

Academic choices enable children to train in new skills or methods of learning, practice these new skills in different settings and achieve mastery over the new skills.  It calls upon the student’s abilities to plan, work and reflect on their work. Once the student decides on a certain choice, he needs to plan what has to be included and how to go about organizing his work. When he has a sketch in mind, he needs to go about creating the sketch.

If a child is planning to write a report, he needs to plan what to include and how to arrange the content. Only then can he do the actual writing. When the work is done, students reflect on their masterpiece, either by discussing with their fellow students, or by re-checking it with the initial plan. In this manner, a student learns to maximize his learning.

What are the ways to use academic choices?

Choices can be applied in three main areas:

  1. Assignments: based on the topic given, students can decide on whether to submit a written assignment, a representational style, or a verbal presentation.  Students can also decide upon the time duration within which the assignment should be submitted.
  2. Learning strategy: they can learn through reports, video and audio material, observation and recording or practical approaches and experiments.
  3. Tests: after the lesson is completed, students can decide on how to be tested to ensure that learning has occurred. Multiple choice questions, essay questions, short answers are few choices that can be given to the children.

Practical issues

Like everything else, use of academic choices may require some practice. These are some difficulties that you may face in the beginning:

  • It might be difficult to make detailed instructions for more than four options. Start with an easy number and as you get experienced in formulating and detailing, you can give your students more choices.
  • Choices should be able to stimulate the students to participate in the learning process. There should be sufficient challenge to motivate them or else they will always pick the easiest route. This may not serve the purpose.
  • Students may, in the beginning, be overwhelmed by the choices presented to them. Be considerate of their difficulties. You can help them get started by giving them an idea of what has to be done and how to do it. You should change your strategy depending on the child. The goal is to get the learning on the right track.

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