Cater the Process of Learning to a Learner’s Preferences

In education circles and across the edu-Twitter-verse, there is a concentrated effort among practitioners to offer learners a variety of choices in their classroom experience. The choices afforded learners often include things like selecting one assignment to do from a menu of assignment options or the freedom to choose the modality through which they demonstrate mastery of a concept. Others present choice in course content, which can look like choice novel units or an extensive list of resources as supplemental texts for learners to engage in as an a la carte format. Even the recent push for flexible learning spaces has, at its core, the vision to empower learners to make a seating choice. And so to only further that conversation and goal, let’s explore how learners can have choice in how they engage in the process of learning.

So, here’s a few ideas.

The Premise of This Post

Learners have learning preferences, and instructional time should be allocated to presenting learners with a variety of strategies (choices) to support (and optimize) their own learning process across in the following tasks…


Do you teach students how to take notes? Fill-in-the-blank notes make great resources for the learner to reference later, but it does not ask them to be active listeners capable of sifting out pertinent information from a lecture or presentation. So with the goal of fostering that particular skill, ask students to take notes and equip them with several strategies as choices for how they do that.

  • Standard Choice Options (Paper):
  • Tech-Forward Choice Options:
    • All of the above method options can be done digitally on a laptop, iPad, or phone. Make suggestions to learners about which programs or apps they might record those notes in, like Evernote, Google Docs, or Notability.
    • In a presentation with slides, teaching learners to take pictures of noteworthy (pun intended) information is also a note-taking method, especially when those photos can be quickly integrated into any written digital notes being recored.


Do you give learners choices in how they choose to annotate a text? If sticky notes and marginalia are your go-to annotation jam, here are a few other options for learners to explore and hopefully find to be engaging ways to interact with a text.


Two Questions: 1. When learners work in groups, are students permitted time to hold a discussion and record their groups’ thoughts/vision(s) prior to the beginning of the task they’ve been assigned? 2. Are students equipped with multiple avenues (choices) to support the continuation of collaborative dialogue outside of class time about their work/efforts? If the answer to either of these is no, here are a few tools that make group work more of a ongoing, collaborative effort.

  • Project Collaboration: Consider assigning each learner in a group with a role for how they will initially contribute to the dialogue prior to the process of the collaboration (and/or with the ongoing task management of the group’s progress and in-class productivity thereafter). These roles might include a team leader, a recorder, potentially someone to create an agenda, potentially someone to create and manage the product – the document or slide deck being created, someone to summarize the dialogue and outline the next steps, etc. To fulfill these specific role responsibilities, encourage learners to begin to keep records from their team meetings by utilizing programs like…
  • Collaborative Learning: DISCLAIMER: The suggestions below are not supported by Westside Community Schools (or most districts) for learners to access as a school requirement. However, for secondary learners interested in collaborating outside of class time, the following programs/apps/social media sites would provide an online space for students to communicate and collaborate with one another outside of the school day. AGAIN, these are not recommended avenues for educators to require learners to use for collaboration. But, it is likely that any tech savvy teen is already using one (or several) of the following sites/apps already for social purposes, so the informal suggestion to use one of these sites/apps for academic good might cause learners to start to use these resources for academic purposes as well.
    • Google Hangouts Video chat that allows for multiple users to communicate simultaneously.
    • FaceTime Video chat that allows two users to communicate simultaneously.
    • Voxer App Social media walkie-talkie app that allows users to leave audio messages for one another – or text messages, images, videos, etc. as well.
    • HouseParty App I’ve never used this app, but I’ve had several students say that they have used its video group chat feature to collaborate on schoolwork outside of the school day.


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