The Power of Choice in the Classroom

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This is the first of a four part series that addresses choice in the classroom.

One of the reasons why children are in such a hurry to grow up is that they want to make their own decisions. Who among us doesn’t remember saying as a child, “When I grow up, I will do THAT”, or “When I grow up, I will NEVER do this again!”? I remember eagerly awaiting the day I could buy my own package of Oreos, and eat them all up myself, whenever I felt like it! 🙂

Oreo Cookies

Neither children nor adults like to be controlled. If, as an adult, our boss gives us a job and then gives us the freedom to complete it however we wish, we work hard, do a good job, and feel proud of the end product. But if we have a controlling boss who wants input on every single step of the project and insists on that input being incorporated, we rebel. We do the minimum required, and we don’t finish with the sensation of having done our best work or made an effort of which we are personally proud. And, if it is possible, we find another job!

Child choosing Montessori work

Many studies have shown that having a sense of control over the environment and what one does within that environment results in better work, more learning, and more perseverance…for adults and children alike. This research is not new; this truth has been well known since 1976, and verified numerous times in subsequent studies. But it is a truth that has been poorly applied in traditional education, in public/private schools as well as homeschools. In general, we continue to give students worksheets that require them to learn certain specific facts, or solve certain problems that the teacher or curriculum company selected. We tend to study exactly what is contained in the curriculum, in the order in which the company chose to present it, without straying from it. And if our students are required to take state tests, we find ourselves obligated to teach certain information, without being able to explore other themes because there is no time. Even when we try giving students products to make their learning more interesting and relevant, we give them so many specific requirements that we end up taking away all of the freedom to explore the topic that a project should have given them, and the result is no better than having handed them a stack of worksheets.

Boring worksheets

 

Tomorrow we will review one of the studies that shows the impact of choice in a task, even when that choice is relatively superficial. The next day I will share a World Cup-themed resource (free!) that aligns with the findings of that study. Then we’ll look at another study, and we’ll finish the series with a look at how choice is incorporated into the Montessori environment. I hope you’ll come back, and will share your experiences and opinons, too!

Esta entrada también está disponible en: Spanish

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