In the last 10 years, we have harnessed the research on and witnessed for ourselves the powerful connection between student agency and motivation. When students are given the ability to make small choices around how and what they learn, their engagement with the course changes in a range of positive ways. We see students work more efficiently, be driven to perform to the best of their abilities, and find space for creative exploration or time to foster a tangential curiosity. Quite simply, when students have choice, they do better across a range of success metrics. Armed with this awareness, how do we leverage choice to inspire learning and growth? There are two primary ways that we work to increase choice for students: within the class itself, as Brad wrote about earlier this month, and within the curriculum as a whole.
One Schoolhouse builds courses and programs based on the needs of consortium schools. Increasingly, this has meant schools asking us to extend their course catalog via advanced semester electives, in order to give students more choices in what they can pursue, including topics like business and economics, civics and politics, computer science, engineering, gender identity, global health, neuroscience, psychology, social entrepreneurship.
As we build more elective options, we wanted to go an additional step further in relation to choice, and to make courses even lower risk on the all-precious “time-consumption” meter. Our fall semester courses are interactive survey courses where students get a sense of the subject by exploring via project-based learning and case studies. For some students, this is all they want - an engaging single semester experience with a college-level topic; for others, they then want to do something with what they’ve learned in the fall. Enter a second level of choice: to stay for the second semester or to ease into spring with a lighter load (a choice we are happy to encourage for some seniors!). If they choose to stay on, they enter seminar tracks where they get to research a challenging question or design and build something that solves a real world problem. The structured deadlines of the spring seminar, combined with the flexibility pathways for deep learning, create a learning environment borne of the intersection between student agency and motivation.
Students and families get more from your school when they feel like you have the choices that they want; and we’re working hard to respond to your requests for more choice in advanced electives.
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Brad Rathgeber (he/him/his)