The need for choice…

I really like Chobani Greek yoghurt, but I am tired of the three or four flavours sold at my local supermarket. A bit of research further afield has revealed no less than twenty flavours available. Apparently, if customers request, my local supermarket might stock a bigger variety.

My choice was limited by what I was offered and what I knew.

It reminds me of schools…

Parents‘ expectations and demands tend to be based on school as they know it, on impressions formed when they themselves went to school. They choose homework and grades for the same reasons that I chose mango or strawberry. I didn’t know what else there was. It’s up to us to show them other possibilities.

Many teachers continue to teach the way they always have, because they haven’t tried the blueberry and have never been exposed to pomegranate. Their schools, like my supermarket, provide limited choice for professional learning and it hasn’t struck them that they can explore further afield. Have they tried requesting other options or initiating their own explorations?

Most importantly… How much choice do students have in their learning? Do they have opportunities to explore and discover what’s out there, follow their passions and direct their own learning? Or do they only get to choose between the options their teachers present, in the same way that I was limited by my local supermarket? Have they discovered the honey flavour? What do they think of the lemon? Have they considered mixing flavours?

Can they make their own yoghurt?

I choose...

15 thoughts on “The need for choice…

  1. I love the analogy ! Giving children freedom to choose their own “flavours” and optitions to mix flavours to make their own is liberating for teachers and learners.
    Parents really struggle with shift in power from teacher to learner but when the children start choosing their own mixes – the results are delicious. The move from highly structured tuition and writing frameworks allows children to express themselves in ways that they never thought was possible.

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  2. Edna you express everything so beautifully. Part of our role as educators is to encourage our students to be discerning – to question, make choices and create new options. Your yoghurt in the supernarket analogy sums this up perfectly.

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  3. As usual, Ed, your analogies, summations and ideas are so clearly presented and make us think, “yeah why not?”
    We too, have become products of our past, recycled reflections of our parents’ limited knowledge of what education would be best for us and some of us, automatically, went through the same processes, thinking that what we knew “worked” would be sufficient for the choices we made for our kids’ educational paths. I applaud you in saying the obvious, which until you said it, wasn’t obvious.

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  4. Hi Ed,

    “I like raspberry. Don’t like blueberry. Don’t like pomegranate. Don’t like strawberry. Don’t like honey or hazelnut. I LIKE RASPBERRY!”

    Now I could be Mikey, a little 7 year old, Michael, Mikey’s dad, or I could be Mike a teacher of some 15 years. They all have plenty of choice … but none wishes to exercise it. Where do you feel we should go next?

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  5. Thanks for the comments, all.
    Thanks Ian, you can be relied on to push back and promote further thinking!
    We have to keep offering little samples of the other flavours and encouraging people to try them. One teaspoon at a time. Oh wait that’s from a different analogy . In the end, you know, if they still refuse to even open their mouths, we might be better off focusing our efforts elsewhere where we can make a difference….

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  6. Yep I like analogies too! Love the thinking being displayed in your post and all the comments. In regards to Ian’s comment isn’t Mike, Mikey, or Michael lucky to be able to decide that he DOESN’T like all the other flavours. Like you said Edna we should at least try to offer a little taste because lord help the student who ONLY gets raspberry. That’s why I hope Mike the teacher doesn’t only offer raspberry to his kids just because that’s the only flavour he likes. Great work Edna!

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  7. Perfect timing Ed, we have just been having this very discussion in the staff room! I can’t wait to share your blog with them.
    Just think, once students have sampled all the flavours available, they could take up their new found passion and invent new flavours, or even a whole new product based on those flavours…hmm…the possibilities are endless…

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  8. Ed, I’d like to take up Ian’s point a little further. Student choice is something we are playing with. We have an inquiry based curriculum for the most part where students are encouraged to ask their own questions on the topic and this has gone some way to providing student voice in curriculum construction. Taking it a little further we have now introduced I time where students get to choose their own topic ( we ask that they plan it and use some of the skills identified rough other studies but the topic is theirs). Some interesting feedback from students – why hadn’t we done this earlier – we introduced this in year 3 and 4 as a trial.

    giving curriculum time over to student based investigations is a risk it’s a process and so far so good.

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  9. Omigosh, this is such perfect timing for me, too.
    I just started back to classroom teaching (with 1:1 iPads) after many years of trying to institute school culture change as a learning specialist. I felt certain that this was the opportunity to institute my ideas of student-centered learning since I would be able to work directly with students instead of trying to convince teachers.

    It has not been quite as easy as I hoped it would be, and I have had to answer to a lot of push-back from parents who are (wrongly) fearful that my philosophy about decisions such as grades, homework, student choice, blogging/writing equate to a lack of rigor.

    Not only am I having to constantly explain and defend myself to parents, but I am finding the students in 4th and 5th grades are already deeply impacted by a school-y, teacher-centered culture. They, too, need to be introduced to new flavors.

    Thank you for this post. It gives me a new perspective, and I will cling to this idea when I begin (as I sometimes do) to question myself in the face of being constantly questioned.

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    1. Hi Andrea

      Glad the post was useful! You might need to move slowly and make small changes… rather like allowing them to taste a little of the new flavours and gradually get used to them. Building a different kind of culture takes time and perseverance. I look forward to hearing about your journey over the coming year.

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