How much choice should students have in their own learning?

“Don’t you think you should let us make the decision?”

“He’s right”, I think.  But, I’m hesitant.

Normally, I send my second year IB students into the spring break with a regimented plan of review.  This year, however, I was stymied by the fact that their needs were so diverse and I couldn’t hone in on a “one size fits all” method.  From their mock exams I knew that, at a minimum, they all needed to review photosynthesis, osmoregulation, and all of genetics.

Now, it’s somewhat common to include students in deciding the rules of a classroom to enhance classroom management or to include students in building rubrics for a specific assignment to increase engagement in learning as well as quality of product.  However, I’m not so sure about preparation for IB exams.

Within a 10-second period a mental battle rages within:  The control freak inside of me wants to give them a quiz, after the break, covering their areas of weakness so that I can ensure that they will study what they need to study.  However, my logical self agrees with my students’ perspective that they are motivated enough to learn the topics they need to learn.  Then, the IB teacher inside of me reminds me of my responsibility to give them every opportunity to succeed.  The individual within me argues back that the students do know what to do and I’ve already equipped them properly.

10 of the graduating seniors are in my IB Bio class, 7 of them intent on passing the IB Biology exam.

I listen to their individual study plans that include practice papers, reviewing weaknesses, and studying as they determined best suited for themselves.  They are convincing.

So, in the end, I decide to let them self-regulate.  After all, in a few months time they will all be at college.   They should be able to handle this on their own, right?

Of course, I’ll be doing some formative assessment upon their return from the break.  After all, I need to collect data on this little experiment, right?  And, the reality is that we still have time to go into hyper-drive mode in the event that the experiment doesn’t work.