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 article||Listen to a podcast|
|Watch a video and complete an Edpuzzle lesson||Participate in teacher-led, small group instruction|
|Engage in a small group discussion||Participate in an asynchronous online discussion|
|Work alone||Work in pairs or small groups|
|Complete a writing task to make connections between concepts||Complete a concept map to show connections between concepts|
|Conduct online research||Interview a family member or friend|
|Pen and paper practice or review||Practice or review with an online program|
|Take notes or annotate||Draw sketchnotes|
|Record a verbal explanation||Type 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.
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!