Interview with Mike Anderson: Choice As A Lever for Personalized Learning

Mike Anderson talks with us about how choice is a significant lever for personalizing learning. Mike is an education consultant, award-winning teacher, and author of many books including The Well-Balanced Teacher, The First Six Weeks of School, The Research-Ready Classroom, and Learning to Choose, Choosing to Learn.

However, he suggests that providing choices depends on a clear understanding of what their options are and how each will impact their learning plan. They have greater agency in directing their own learning when they are thoughtful about the decisions they are making about how to choose for engagement.

Mike was kind enough to send along the “heat map” he was describing in the interview as well as this description. This “heat map” has problems of varying challenge levels. The cooler (bluer) the color, the easier problems are to solve. The warmer (pinker) the color, the more challenging they are. In the calculus class where this was used, some students were taking Calculus II. The top row of problems involves skills that only those students have learned. Students’ goal was to find the “just right” challenge level of problems to solve–to self-differentiate their learning.

This is a strong example of choice as well as a metaphor for the idea of having students ante up to engage in their zone of proximal development.

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