Sunday, December 27, 2015

Variety and Choice: The Spice of Life in Education

Variety in life is a good thing.  Variety and choice are a couple of things that make our country and this time in our lives great.  For some as adults, the different variety and choices that we have take time to get used to.  But for our students, this is the only life they know. 

Our students take advantage of variety and choice everyday.  The only problem is, in education, we don’t take advantage of that.  For years in our educational system, we have tried to avoid variety and limit the amount of choices for students and teachers.  Why? That’s for another blog post.  For now, the fact of the matter is as educators, we need to offer different opportunities for our teachers and students.

When I meet with teachers and discuss preparation, instruction, and assessment of students, one of the biggest opportunities for growth with educators is using assessment data and assessment choices.  As educators, it seems that it is ingrained in us to assess students the same way students have been assessed for years.  The mindset is, “It is has worked for this long so why change?”   That may have worked 10 to 15 years ago, but as stated above, our students and society have changed.  Our students need choice.  Whether it’s good or bad, our students expect choice.  Students have different needs, learning styles and abilities.  In education, we need to cultivate their desires for differentiation allowing them to demonstrate growth based on their styles.

Differentiating assessment choices may sound intimidating to many in education.  We are just not accustomed to doing it because it is not how we learned when we were in school.  The great thing is, by making subtle changes in the classroom and in our mindset, we can make differentiation a smoother process:
  • Change your Instruction

Instruct differently.  Maybe not everyday and every lesson, but try some new approaches.  Changing your instructional mindset allows your assessment mindset to transition.  At that point, you're not taking a risk.  You’re simply changing your assessment based on a change of instruction.

  • Increase Student Resources

The correct type, amount, and use of resources leads to more student creativity.  Allow students to use their resources and creativity to show what they know.

  • Increase Student Choice

Students have good ideas.  Growing up in a society that offers so much choice and variety fuels creativity.  Ask students how they would like to be assessed.  Trust me, they will surprise you.

  • Utilize Professional Resources

Ask others (outside of your classroom) for their opinion.  Allow them to share their creativity and ideas with you.  There are many different resources to use (blogs, social media, department meetings) to gain more knowledge about assessment choices. 

  • Practice More   
Give students more opportunity to practice.  Use more formative and diagnostic assessments each day in class.  We can accumulate a great deal of data and use it quickly with the help of technology.  Analyzing data allows educators to identify student strengths and needs immediately so class time is used effectively and efficiently.

We need to change our mindset.  A great place to start is how we deliver instruction to our students.  Taking small steps to deliver and assess instruction in a different way will create learning opportunities for a number of students.  Let’s match our instruction and assessments with our students needs instead of matching them with our comfort level.  What do we have to lose?  Not as much as we have to gain.


  1. You pose a great challenge for us to match our instruction to students' needs rather than our comfort level. I think we could also say to match instruction to students' needs rather than tradition. We must stay current and understand the influences on our students and their desires for different styles of instruction. Thank you for not only suggesting/challenging us, but also for offering practical implementation tips!

  2. Amen ... preach it Brother! Good advice!!