Today I’m writing as I sit in the back of the advanced guitar rehearsal session at our awesome 2014 Music Festival and thinking about last year when I sat in the beginning guitar rehearsal with these very same kids…it’s amazing to see how much they’ve grown in so many aspects over the last year but particularly in their guitar skills (especially since my skills have gone backward over that same time!) Their dedication and motivation to learn and grow is impressive…it got me to thinking.
Our music program here at SCIS is mandatory for all Middle School students but the fact that we provide so much ‘choice’ for our students has led to a music program that thrives. Our students get to choose, not only their music class, but their instrument too. The positive energy around campus during the Music Festival stems directly from the enjoyment our students get from learning and playing their instruments, awesome stuff!
Choice is extremely important in education for many reasons but, in my opinion, one of those reasons sticks out more than the others. Last week I wrote about the importance of curiosity and I believe that choice is directly related, in that they both spark people’s intrinsic motivation to learn. Every one of us has an innate desire to feel competent and at the same time have the freedom to do what we enjoy. Choice lets our students pursue their passions while also putting them in the position to feel successful. The intrinsic reward for achieving success with a self-selected goal is tremendous and spurs even further motivation to continue growing.
Another area in education that allows for choice is allowing students to demonstrate their learning by choosing a method that suits them. Now, this doesn’t mean a complete free for all but no two students are identical and each has their own strengths (and weaknesses). Allowing students to choose between a selection of options for demonstrating their learning can be an extremely effective way of engaging learners who may otherwise be disinterested. Writing a song to demonstrate understanding of vocabulary words, designing a math game to show comprehension of algebraic concepts, or creating a melody to prove mastery of strumming techniques in guitar are all examples of ways that students could share their learning while also choosing their own path.
Give some thought to how you currently incorporate student choice into your classroom as well as how you could increase the amount of opportunities for choice. Don’t forget to come out tomorrow and enjoy the fruits of all the motivation and skills that our kids have demonstrated over the last two days in their rehearsals and sectionals! (I know the advanced guitar will rock!)
A great piece about student choice: http://www.edutopia.org/lesson-engagement-student-choice
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