Differentiating Process with Student Choice Boards

Every student deserves a great teacher, not by chance, but by design! 

Hattie, Fisher, Frey

Teachers in a differentiated classroom understand two things. First, there are standards that guide what is taught; and second, no two learners have the same path in mastering those standards. A differentiated classroom recognizes this and provides various ways through content, product, assessment, and process to meet the needs of all students. And all of this is accomplished by design, not chance!

The one component many educators find most difficult to understand and implement is “Differentiation through Process”. Process is how the learner comes to make sense of and understand topics, concepts, and skills directly aligned to the learning goal. Varying levels of support along with student choice make differentiating process one of the most effective ways to improve student learning.

I write a lot about differentiation and Steven Anderson and I present on how #EdTech can support a differentiated classroom at various events. When we do so, the example of a Student Choice Board is always a favorite with educators!

A Student Choice Board is not a hodge-podge of activities thrown together in an attempt to provide student choice in the classroom. Instead, a choice board is aligned to learning goals, has carefully selected activities to allow students to access and understand information, plus multiple options to apply and demonstrate understanding of a topic or concept.

When designing a Student Choice Board, we like to consider 3 layers of learning, Surface Learning, Deep Learning, and Application.

  1. Surface Learning – Initial exposure. Serves to support and build background knowledge in which students can construct new knowledge upon.
  2. Deep Learning – Students continue to solidify understanding and dig deeper, make connections, see examples, provides practice, and deepen their own understanding.
  3. Application – Students demonstrate mastery of content or skill by applying knowledge and demonstrating understanding.

Here is an example from a science classroom where students are exploring and learning about the Periodic Table. The directions on the side provide the learning goal and student expectations. This clarity provides students the “what” and allows them to own the “how”.

By blending differentiation with the resources provided by #EdTech, educators are able to not only support students accessing information through various modes, but provides a streamlined process in which students are able to choose their process and “own” their learning! Student Choice Boards is one of my favorite ways to differentiate process in the classroom. Why not give it a shot and try it out next year?

Blank Choice Board Template