Sunday, November 8, 2015

Choice is More than a Menu of Options

Continuum of Choice TM

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Continuum of Choice by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on work at

Providing choice can be confusing. If learners are choosing from a set of pre-planned choices from a computer program or a list of options from the teacher, then the teacher is ultimately the one responsible for the learning not the learner. As learners increase responsibility around voice, teachers can also provide a process that builds ownership as learners move toward agency with choice.

The teacher or a computer program provides a menu of options for learners. These options are choices for learners to learn content through images, videos, text-based resources, audio, hands-on activities, or interactions with peers. These options allow learners to access information, engage with content, and express what they know and understand. The choices offered provide learners opportunities to showcase what they know from writing a paper to creating a performance.

The teacher provides learning possibilities and then gets out of the way for learners to go on their own journey (via Jackie Gerstein). They invite input from learners to add to options of choices on how they would prefer or need to access information, engage with content, and express what they know. The teacher collaborates with the learner to brainstorm ideas for lesson design, assessment strategies and types of tools and resources to use with activities. Teachers and learners review and collaborate how to give more choice as they learn and demonstrate evidence of learning.

The learner chooses topics and direction for what they plan to design based on personal interests. They research topics based on questions generated individually or with peers. The learner acquires the skills they need to choose the appropriate tools and resources for developing and creating their design. Learners, individually or with peers, brainstorm and choose ideas using the design thinking process to create change or design new products:
  1. Empathize is where they talk to people and reflect on what they see.
  2. Define is where learners become aware of needs and how to make changes to meet needs.
  3. Ideate is where learners brainstorm ideas and questions around changes.
  4. Prototype can be a sketch or model that conveys the product or idea for change.
  5. Test is to determine what works, what doesn’t work and then modifies the prototype.
The learner can be part of a pathways program that guides the design of their learning. They find an advisor or mentor who can guide them as they explore their interests, talents and passions to discover their purpose. They can choose extended learning opportunities such as internships or apprenticeship to take their aspirations to another level.

The learner chooses a challenge or problem that they are passionate about. This is where the learner wants to make a difference and perseveres to choose what will be their purpose of learning. When they identify the challenge or problem they then own an authentic voice with a clear purpose for the choices they will make to advocate for what they believe. They employ strategies and build a network of others who want to solve the challenge or problem to advocate for change. The group works strategically to develop an action plan to shape the change. When the learner has the experiences of advocacy working toward something they believe in, they are using the power of democracy and understand their part in the system.

The learner self-regulates, adjusts, and determines learning based on what they want to do with their lives. They take their ideas and passion to pursue an idea and possibly to create a business. Even young learners may invent or come up with an idea that improves a product or invent something that has never been done before. This is the driving force that becomes their purpose. They take the lead by driving the design process and advocating for what they believe is an important product or idea. They build a support system as their personal learning network (PLN) that helps guide them on their journey to learn, build, design, create, develop, and promote an idea or product. The learner understands the importance of being connected, branding who they are and pursuing their purpose for learning.

Image Free for commercial use / No attribution required

The goal to move from participant to a self-regulated learner takes time and a process for both teachers and learners. The continuum of choice was developed to provide a guide and strategies for teachers and learners who follow this process. When you move to learner-centered and eventually learn-driven environments, learners take more responsibility for their learning. The more choices learners make on their own will challenge them to advocate for what they believe is their purpose for learning. 

A big Thank You to Sylvia Duckworth @sylviaduckworth from Crescent School, Toronto, Canada for designing the graphic of the Continuum of Choice 11/2015.

This page including the chart was created by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey 11/2105. For permission to distribute copies, to adapt or to use in a publication, contact Personalize Learning, LLC at

Links to other Continuums
Continuum of Engagement
Continuum of Voice