Contributed by David Dolecki
There are many different trends in regards to differentiation in education. We focus here on the trend of student choice. “In the Learner-Differentiated Curriculum the students are in control of their own learning.”(McCarrin, 2007) By giving students choices of what and how they want to learn a particular subject, the idea is they will have more interest and more of a buy-in to education.
Now, there are some teachers that will resist this trend along with other trends for one reason or another. Mark Pennington put it very eloquently with correlating struggling students with a man overboard on a ship. He explains it like this: “The problem is motivational and has consequences. Turning the ship around for one lost soul disrupts the cruise for the many. Turning the ship around means acknowledging that mistakes have been made and that the old ways of doing things may not work anymore (if they ever did work). Turning the ship around requires much more work, a willingness to try new things, and a degree of discomfort among all stakeholders in the educational establishment.”(Pennington, 2009)
There is also research that looks at the amount of choice students might have. Bryan Goodwin explains that students don’t fare as well when given a lot of choices, however, he goes on to tell how research shows students did much better when given fewer choices to choose from. With these fewer choices student turned in more work and higher quality work at that.(Goodwin, 2010) With this in mind, creating “Choice Boards” can be very beneficial to struggling students. Jackie Patanio explains that choice boards are organizers used in the classroom and have a variety of activities or tasks for students in all pre high school grades. Students can pick from these activities to complete assignments as they learn new skills and create finished assignments.(Patanio, 2010) The little effort a teacher uses to create a small number of activities that are geared towards the interests of struggling students can garner great results with these students.
You might think that choice boards can only be used in literature with books or writing topics. Yet, student learner curriculum's can be utilized in all subjects like math and science. For instance, student choice in science can get students to find something they are very interested in and explore it further. This will build research and inquiry skills.(Differentiation For Science, 2005) When teaching math, the teacher can get the students to read boring instructional material by creating slideshows, or make the information into a news report. Or have the students choose from a list of websites that have similar information about the same subject matter. There a many, many ways differentiation can be used in math and science, and it is up to the teachers to be creative and incorporate this creativeness into student choice.