One of the approaches our teachers expertly employ is adding a component of student choice to either the learning or assessment activity or both. Why? Is it because,
- When students have a say in what they are learning, they are more interested and invested in it?
- Choosing a topic that has relevance to a student helps connect new concepts to previous knowledge?
- Students become part of the process of creating knowledge by applying their perspective to a collective understanding of the world?
- A balance of exposure to skills/content and the opportunity to apply them in a deep-dive investigation is more effective than one or the other?
- Part of becoming an expert learner is realizing the teacher is not the only source and is building confidence in one’s agency and comfortability in accessing, processing, and presenting information?
- We believe in modeling for students that they are part of a community of learners and that they are the changemakers who can make a difference in the world?
The answer is yes to all of the above. These are some of the reasons why the middle school invests time in collaborative projects, electives, and mini-term classes. Whether critical thinking takes the form of the 5th grade students choosing their math enrichment, the 6th grade students choosing a science myth about astronomy, or the 7th and 8th grade making hundreds of choices in creating their music exhibition, they are all demonstrating joy and rigor.