Building Engagement through Voice & Choice

Learning Landscape Thursday, 11 Mar 2021

It makes sense that being able to seize students' curiosity and pique their interest will lead to better engagement in their learning. We, as human beings, are naturally more invested in things that bring us joy or that we find interesting. However, traditional models of schooling often limit or even squash this curiosity by ensuring all students churn out answers to the same old questions, read the same books in class and listen to and absorb the same knowledge as their classmates by completing the same tasks.

While the Australian Curriculum provides a central backbone of skills and understandings that all students work towards in a given year level, how these skills are achieved or demonstrated can either engage or disengage our students. Providing students with choices and a say in how they demonstrate their knowledge can harness their curiosity, creativity and problem-solving skills as well as triggering the obvious… interest and engagement.

At Living Faith, engagement is a core factor in all curriculum decisions. We know that student voice and choice builds engagement and that students learn best when they are inspired and encouraged to make choices for themselves. This is one of our 'belief statements’ that form part of the school’s learning philosophy.

How is this achieved in practice?

In Daily 5, students are coached on picking ‘good fit' books for themselves. Instead of groups of students reading prescribed books that they may have little to no interest in, they actively select books of interest which will help foster and build a lifelong love of reading. Students who like reading are more likely to read more frequently, subsequently becoming more fluent readers.

In Work on Writing sessions, students also have the freedom to write about what interests them. Poetry, narratives, scripts, persuasive texts or information reports often feature within a single writing session as students practise the text type skills they attained in Writers Workshop and grammar lessons. It would be simple for the teacher to ask all students to write a persuasive text on the same topic, however, our teachers see the benefit of drawing the same skills out of students whilst also giving them choice and fundamentally improving their engagement.

In Maths, a growth mindset is our underpinning philosophy. Rather than teaching all students one way of solving a problem, they participate in number talks where they are exposed to a broad range of different strategies to solve the same problem. Students can then choose ways that work best for them.

Project-Based Learning is designed to be led by student interest and questions. Students participate in an entry event at the start of a project which generates students’ thinking and they come up with ‘unGoogleable’ questions they would like to know about the topic. These inquiry questions direct the course of the project. In many PBL units, students use design thinking to prototype and create their own ideas for products or projects. You will see evidence of this at the Year 5 Hub Market or with our Year 1 bee hotels, Year 6 disaster shelters, Year 2 balloon-powered vehicles, Prep plant habitats, Year 3 World Expo and our Year 4 sustainability inventions.

At Living Faith, student voice and choice play a critical part in our classroom practice because when students ‘buy in’ and are engaged in their learning, they have greater success and fun.