Student Choice in Personalized Learning

Laura Stott

History teacher Laura Stott from Madison Public Schools, Conn. is part of an innovation project to experiment with personalized learning throughout the year with Allison Zmuda.

Student choice is a key tenet of personalized learning, and I think it is especially powerful when the choice is organic and meaningful. To take Allison’s wording, not choice that results in “dumpster projects,” but choice that results in authentic, impactful results for a student, and helps them to create a meaningful final product.

For their oral history projects, students chose their interviewees. We discussed the pros and cons of choosing a family member, and considered how to find an interviewee related to a topic of interest to a student. Students wrote their own questions; I provided instruction on writing open ended questions, avoiding leading questions, and preparing for follow up questions, but the students took control of their interview preparation.

Students also have choice in their presentation method. I’ve been working closely with our school’s instructional technology specialist to introduce the students to different methods for sharing their interview, their analysis, and their findings— a website, a podcast, an original film, a traditional written paper, or some combination of the above.

I am so proud of the work my students have undertaken so far: the choices they’ve made in WHAT to study, HOW to study it, and HOW to demonstrate their learning. I am so excited to spend next week working with students to develop their creative vision and begin building their final products!

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