Learning By Choice - Steve Barkley

Learning By Choice

I am reading A.J. Juliani’s book, Learning by Choice: 10 Ways Choice and Differentiation Create An Engaged Learning Experience for Every Student.   (Juliani, A.J. (2015-04-01) (Kindle Locations 1708-1709). Press Learn. Kindle Edition. )

Juliani’s work is driven by this belief:

We need to let students choose as much of their learning path as possible.

 In the first chapter, Juliani explores giving students choices in “what they are learning”. His personal experiences with 20% time mirror those that I shared in an earlier blog  where teachers were implementing Genius Hour. One of his points, which really resonated with me, was that because students select areas of study that were not his (teacher) area of expertise, the teacher is forced to teach how to learn rather than teaching the answers.

Mihaly-Csikszentmihalyi suggests that intrinsic learning which would be encouraged through choice is likely to have the learner keep going in a lifelong learning mode. With concentration, clear goals, and feedback, there is the feeling that what you can do is more or less in balance with what needs to be done….. a flow experience. Without an extrinsic reward the experience itself is rewarding. (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Motivating People to Learn | Edutopia) Increasing students’ opportunities with flow should be an instructional design goal.

april 12

George Couros writes connecting choice and flow when he describes the goal of moving classrooms from compliance and engagement to empowerment:

So if we want to get to this idea of “empowering” our students, we are not going to have to be the “sage on the stage” or the “guide at the side”, but “architects of meaningful learning opportunities”.  Understanding our students, their interests, abilities, and strengths, will help us better design learning that gets them to, as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes, a state of “flow“. (The Principal of Change- George Couros) 

Additional chapters in Learning By Choice explore choice:

in how we learn

in assessment

in differentiation

in communication (and relationships)

in pace and order

in technology

in story and presentation

in purpose

and what to do when students struggle with choice

april 12a

When exploring engagement Juliani raises three questions which I would encourage instructional coaches and principals to consider:

What type of attitude does the student have towards the learning activity? What is the evidence?

 What level of attention does the student have towards the learning activity? What is the evidence?

 What level of commitment does the student have towards the learning activity? What is the evidence?

These are also great questions for PLC reflection among teachers who are teaching the same course content. It would be great to add observations in each other’s classrooms and input from students during a unit of study. The goal would be seeking ways to add choice to positively impact attitude, attention, and commitment thus increasing learning outcomes.

I believe these conversations should have increasing importance as educators focus more on learning than on teaching. As architects of “meaningful learning opportunities” we need to be assessing students engaged in the learning in order to judge our success. By building increased choice into our schools and classrooms we can encourage students to increase their role in the architecture of learning designs.

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