My children love “would you rather” questions. Would you rather go to the beach or the snow? Would you rather eat a cookie or a brownie? Would you rather watch a movie or read a book? They enjoy being presented with two options and getting to choose one.

In a workshop last week, I was guiding a group through the process of designing a choice board. I love choice boards, but I know they take time to create. Time is a luxury most teachers do not have right now. It got me thinking…what if we began more simply with a “would you rather” format?

Could approaching the design, instruction, and facilitation of learning (in class, online, or a combination of the two) with a “would you rather” lens improve student motivation and engagement? I think it could.

Instead of a choice board with nine options, teachers can provide students with at least one choice between two options during the learning experience. That requires less time to prepare for, while still giving students a choice. Choice has been shown to improve retention, transfer performance, and motivation (Schneider, Nebel, Beege & Rey, 2018). It is worth our time to prioritize student choice, even if that choice is fairly simple.

Would You Rather?

Read an articleListen to a podcast
Watch a video and complete an Edpuzzle lessonParticipate in teacher-led, small group instruction
Engage in a small group discussionParticipate in an asynchronous online discussion
Work aloneWork in pairs or small groups
Complete a writing task to make connections between conceptsComplete a concept map to show connections between concepts
Conduct online researchInterview a family member or friend
Pen and paper practice or reviewPractice or review with an online program
Take notes or annotateDraw sketchnotes
Record a verbal explanationType a written explanation

Self-Determination Theory identifies three basic psychological needs that impact motivation–competence, relatedness, and autonomy (Deci & Ryan, 2000). Competence is the feeling that students can complete tasks successfully. If students choose how they engage with information, review concepts, work on tasks, or share their learning, they are more likely to feel competent in those endeavors.

Relatedness is the sense of connectedness to the other learners in a class community. Relatedness is trickier to achieve when students are learning online. The feeling of social isolation that some students experience online can negatively impact their motivation and desire to engage. Providing them with the choice to decide how they engage with one another may help them feel more connected to their peers.

Finally, autonomy, or the feeling of independence and ability to make decisions, is supported by choice. The more opportunities students have to make key decisions about their learning, the more likely they are to be motivated to lean into the learning. A student’s sense of autonomy and agency are enhanced when they are given a choice about how to engage with the content, learning activities, and each other.

An Experiment

When I work with teachers, I encourage them to treat their classrooms (physical or virtual) like a laboratory. Our goal should be to investigate, experiment, tinker, and learn to ensure that the learning experiences we are designing meet our students’ diverse needs.

What would happen if we commit to incorporating one choice into every lesson or learning experience for a month? How might that impact the students’ interest, engagement, and motivation?

I encourage teachers to try this 30-day experiment incorporating at least one “would you rather” choice into each lesson or learning experience. I would love to hear what you observe and hear from students. Ask them for feedback!

16 Responses

  1. Thank you for sharing! Would you happen to have a link to slide resources available? I am an Adjunct Instructor and I’m going to use this strategy this week. Thank you for the inspiration! 🙂

  2. I love this idea! I will be presenting at NCCE next month around student engagement and one of the sections is on choice. Could we share your slides as a one of our resources for participants in our session? It’s nice for people to have a visual of where to begin. Thank you so much!

  3. I’m trying to incorporate as much choice in my lessons – for the would you rather where you ask students to “record an explanation” what’s the best way I can have students quickly and easily record a verbal explanation – I want to provide them instructions. I have an article they are reading and they have to answer questions along the way… I would love for them to be able to record their voices and somehow embed them right in the google doc?

    • Hi Kim,

      If your students used Mote (a Chrome Extension), I believe they could record short (less than 30 seconds) responses right inside their Google Docs.


  4. Hi Catlin,
    Your ability to understand the major barriers facing our teachers and students (no matter the subject matter!), explain ways to dissolve said barriers, and make everything super user friendly is truly a gift! Thank you for all your contributions to the educator community. Dr. Catlin Tucker = a huge positive to our crazy 2020!
    Quick question – do you have any super hero blended learning math friends that I should be following as well?

  5. As a freshman in college and majoring in elementary education, I am learning on connecting with other teachers and educators to gain more knowledge on using technology in the classroom and getting ideas to create my own classroom. I thought this idea of using would you rather with finding ways children are more engaged in was great, and would want to use something like this. I was wondering what other educators could I be following on like twitter to help me grow my ideas for a future class room! Thank you.

  6. Hi Catlin,
    I love this so much! I’m a high school Title 1 teacher and my students struggle with academics every single day. The greatest struggle is often just motivation to get going at all. I love your idea to incorporate choice at least once in every lesson. I think that could truly help build motivation and engagement, as nearly all of them feel as though they have no control over anything in their lives. By allowing them to control some aspect of their learning, we give them more power and maybe we could get more out of them.
    Thanks for sharing!

      • Can you limit choice boards by only using 3 options instead of 9? 9 different options seems overwhelming to grade!!! 3 options and having the students complete 2/3 sounds better and then maybe move up to 6 or 9. Or am I over thinking this??!!

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