Giving Students Choice Also Helps Them Succeed | VIEWS OF NEVADA
Author Catherine Pulsifer once said, “Life presents many choices; the choices we make determine our future.
In my more than 15 years as superintendent at Delta Academy, I have witnessed firsthand the power of choice in education. This includes everything from choice offered to students by teachers in the classroom, to models of education and choice of school.
Student choice is one of the most engaging strategies a teacher can use in the classroom. A study of eighth graders published by the Journal of Literary Research found that when students moved from assigned reading to choice reading, they were more collectively and individually engaged, read more, had more positive relationships with their peers, better self-regulation and better test scores. All of these positive changes occurred simply because teachers abandoned assigned readings and instead allowed their eighth graders to choose from a collection of young adult fiction that was personally meaningful to them.
This doesn’t mean that rules and boundaries aren’t necessary parts of ensuring a productive learning environment — they are. However, by providing students with choices, we help them connect to the program as well as their own identities and passions.
No two students are the same when it comes to who they are as individuals, as well as how they learn. So while conventional classroom learning with bell schedules and testing regimens works wonders for some, it can be a hindrance for others. At my school, we have as many students who excel in online or blended learning as those who do in a traditional classroom. By providing options for students online – such as Zooming in on live lessons alongside their peers in the physical classroom, attending extracurricular activities, and meeting with teachers several times a week in person or virtually – time and time again , I have seen success .
There is no right or wrong way to learn, just differences in how we learn. It is essential to accept this fact and provide a variety of learning models from which students and their parents can choose. In doing so, decisions can be made based on their unique and individual needs, helping them select the type of environment that will allow them to thrive.
Student success depends on many factors. So, although it is extremely important to provide choice in the learning environment as well as educational models, they will be totally ineffective if the student does not feel that the school itself agrees.
According to the nonprofit advocacy group All4Ed, for students to learn, they need to feel safe, engaged, connected and supported in their classrooms and schools. This highlights the importance of school choice. Students and their families should be able to choose the schools or services that best meet their needs, whether it is a public, charter, home or private school, or other learning environment best suited to serve them.
It all comes down to empowering students and their parents through choice. By doing so, we better prepare young minds for success and help secure a brighter future.
Kyle Konold is superintendent of Delta Academy in North Las Vegas.