Reflections on Choice

choice – noun \ ˈchȯis  \ power of choosing 

Our Digital Learning and Leading Master’s program at Lamar University is centered around the COVA approach as well as CSLE, or Creating Significant Learning Enviroments. As students, we created ePortfolios to document our learning as we develop an innovation plan to be enacted in our current work environment. Having the opportunity to create and develop these authentic projects is cementing our learning, and bringing true meaning to our work.

In the book COVA Choice, Ownership and Voice through Authentic Learning, authors Harapnuik, Thibodeaux and Cummings thoroughly describe how these elements in a significant learning enviroment promote deeper and more meaningful learning. The authors bring authenticity and relevance to this approach by relating the examples to personal experiences, as well as describing how they successfully used the approach in the DLL program at Lamar University.

This blog post on choice is the first in a serices of four that discusses just a few of the salient points in the book. I aim to connect the COVA approach to the work, ideas and suggestions of other thought leaders. There are so many ideas, materials, books and videos that support these notions because “The COVA approach has been in the making for the past 25 years but it has its foundation in the constructivist theories of the past century.”

Student choice leads to engagement, and that is ceratinly true in our DLL program as we were tasked with making two big choices:

  1. What would we choose as an authentic innovation to implement in our current work environment?
  2. What ePortfolio platform would we use to document our learning journey?

In COVA, Harapnuik states that, “Giving our learners choice is not a matter of allowing them to select from predetermined list of options or to allowing them to select from a list of topics. Genuine choice means that you as the teacher acknowledge that the learning process is not about you, but it is about the learner—you give your learner real choice.” At different levels of education, choice will look different. However, it does not need to be limited to a choice board for elementary students. The goal is to provide higher level opportunites for coice, and described by Bray & McClaskey.


Educators have the ability to cultivate the opportunities for choice. “Like the farmer, we must create significant learning environments that will help to support and nurture the learner as they take responsibility for their own learning. We can create the context for learning and guide and direct our learners to make the choices that will help them achieve their learning goals but the choice in their focus and how they learn must be up to them.” (Harapnuik, 2018).

John Spencer is a writer and educator that shares thought provoking ideas to promote student success. Much of his work aligns with the COVA + CSLE approach. He outlines Ten Ways to Empower Students with Choice in a YouTube video and article on Medium.

It can be daunting for a teacher to imagine relinquishing control in the classroom to build an enough student choice, especially when they feel bound by state curriculum and standardized testing. The key for teachers may be to build in choice a little at a time. One way for teachers to build that in gradually is with projects, and scaffodl the help students connect those projects to real-world interests for students. Here are two project resources that provide opportunites for student choice.

Megan Revello, a high school teacher describes how she used TED-Ed to build student voice and choice into her clasroom.

Jennier Pieratt, the authorof Keep It Real with PBL, offers some project ideas to support student choice. These type of projects foster authentic learning when they are based on real-world problems that effect change for an authentic audience.

The more decisions that you are forced to make alone, the more you are aware of your freedom to choose. —Thornton Wilder

References:

10 Ways to Empower Students With Choice. (2016). YouTube. https://youtu.be/L08wNizulOY.

Bray, B. (2018, May 8). Opportunities for Choice: The Learning Path to Advocacy and Innovation. Rethinking Learning. https://barbarabray.net/2018/05/08/continuum-of-choice-choosing-the-learning-path-to-find-passion-and-purpose/.

Duckworth, S. (2018, May 8). Opportunites for Choice. Sylvia Duckworth. https://sylviaduckworth.com/.

Harapnuik, D., Thibodeaux , T., & Cummings, C. (2018). Cova: Choice, Ownership and Voice through Authentic Learning (Vol. .9). Creative Commons.

Pieratt, J. (2020, January 13). 20 of the Best Project Based Learning Ideas for 2020. Craft Ed. https://craftedcurriculum.com/20-of-the-best-project-based-learning-ideas-for-2020/.

Revello, M. (2019, June 20). TED-Ed as a Tool for Student Choice and Voice. KQED. https://www.kqed.org/education/531989/ted-ed-as-a-tool-for-student-choice-and-voice.

Spencer, J. (2016, August 8). 10 Ways to Incorporate Student Choice in Your Classroom. Medium. https://medium.com/synapse/10-ways-to-incorporate-student-choice-in-your-classroom-e07baa449e55.

Thibodeaux, T. Learner’s Mindset….. Learners Mindset. http://tilisathibodeaux.com/wordpress/?page_id=538.

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