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We will look at the power of student choice from 3 perspectives.

  1. The power of choice on what to learn:  syllabus, class content, resources
  2. The power of choice on how to learn:  activities, tools, media formats
  3. The power of choice on how to be assessed:  rubric, grades, format

Reflect on the power (or drawbacks) of student choice.  Use the following questions to guide your thinking or come up with your own.  (You do not need to answer every question.)

  • What are some anticipated drawbacks with this strategy of giving students the power of choice? 
  • Do the pros of giving students choice outweigh the cons?
  • Who should be the one making rules? The one making the final decisions? 
  • What if there is disagreement or conflict among students? 
  • What is the instructor’s role? Facilitator, Mediator, Policy-maker, Decision-maker, Final grader, Other?
  • How much power is considered a proper amount for students to make choices? 
  • How do we make all students in the class contribute equally in the process, instead of some students dominating? 
  • How do we turn the learning outcome into letter/numeral grades? 
  • How can this strategy be differently conducted based on different age/grade levels? 

Additional Resources:

In general, it is widely agreed that giving students the power of choices is an attractive and promising strategy to take. Its pros outweighs the cons, if the strategy is well designed and implemented. 


  • It might be overwhelming or frustrating for students, esp. those who are unprepared, at the beginning stage; 
  • Need a lot more work on keeping balance among the choices, balance among students at different levels in the same class (background, culture, capability, motivation, study skills, etc.), balance in students’ learning outcome, balance in assessment; 
  • On one hand, students might want to try out something new without realizing how much work it might be for them; on the other hand, students might be hesitating to challenge themselves, or explore something new, because of their concerns over competitiveness, success/failure, or final grade;
  • It’s easier to give students choices on “how to learn” and “what to learn”, than on “how to assess” 
  • There might be a lot more work on teacher’s side because of the variety and diversity of students’ choices 


What is needed before giving the students the power of choice?  

  • Build a trusting relationship with students and have open discussion with students before making any decision;
  • Teacher needs to do a lot prep work in planning and preparation;
  • General rules/norms and students’ agreements to follow the rules; 
  • Sufficient explanation about why students will be given the power of choice and guidance and training provided to students before giving them the power;
  • Regular checking from the teacher to make sure every student is contributing to and benefiting from this learning process; 
  • Good design on Choice Board, Rubrics, etc. 

Stages of using the strategy: 

Stage 1: Teacher’s planning and preparation

Stage 2: Discussion among teachers and students for a good awareness to this strategy and a trusting relationship

Stage 3: Teacher-guided training on making choices

Stage 4: Teacher-facilitated students’ choices on what to learn, how to learn and how to assess

Stage 5: Students’ own choices with teachers’ checking and support on a regular basis

Stage 6: Reflection and Self-reflection