Monday, September 15, 2014

Student Choice: The Key to Designing Coherent Instruction

The Danielson Framework for Teaching includes Designing Coherent Instruction as one of the categories within Domain 1: Planning and Preparation.  Critical look-fors such as standards-based instruction, differentiation, interdisciplinary connections, and student choice collectively define coherent instruction.

In the H.E.A.T.®/Danielson Evaluation Rubric, the degree of student choice embedded in the curriculum planning process represents the line of demarcation between a teacher evaluation rating of Proficient and Distinguished. What precisely defines student choice? In the planning process, student choice refers to students assuming an active role in their own learning by providing them with increased control, decision-making, and personal responsibility of the content, process, and/or product in the curriculum decision-making cycle. 

How can teachers promote greater student choice or student-directed learning when planning “coherent instruction?” Provided below is a small sampling of strategies.

  • Providing students with sub-discussion topic options using Socratic seminars
  • Allowing students to self-select their own topics for discussion

  • Providing opportunities for students to arrive at self-drawn conclusions or generalizations within cooperative or collaborative learning groups
  • Emphasizing student-generated questions that enable the learners to analyze, synthesize, or evaluate
  • Providing opportunities for self-directed activities such as interest centers, learning contacts, and independent study

  • Self-selecting their own methods of assessment including self-assessments and peer reviews
  • Providing choices or options relating to the medium for final deliverables (e.g., formal papers, multi-media, blog post)

As with any formalized teacher evaluation system, performing at a higher level in one category frequently elevates the rating of other categories.  In the H.E.A.T.®/Danielson Evaluation Rubric, performing at the Distinguished level within the Domain 1 category, Designing Coherent Instruction, will also increase the rating level of the companion Domain 1 categories Demonstrating Knowledge of Resources and Designing Student Assessments; the Domain 2 category Establishing a Culture for Learning; and the Domain 3 categories Using Questioning and Discussion Techniques, Engaging Students in Learning, Using Assessment in Instruction, and Demonstrating Flexibility and Responsiveness.