The Research Behind Decision Based Learning
Question: What impact does providing structured opportunities for student choice have on student engagement?
Introduction: Barry Schwartz's article Can There Be Too Many Flowers Blooming? introduces an idea Schwartz calls choice overload. Choice overload is a negative reaction people have when they are presented with too many choices. While he concedes that having limited choices is important to a person's sense of freedom and agency, Shwartz describes how an abundance of choice is often accompanied by an abundance of stress.
I believe that my students were experiencing choice overload during the first round of action research and so I wanted to discover what the right amount of choice was for my students. I created a unit which provided opportunities for students to choose between a number of resources to inform research projects they would present to the class at the end of four weeks. Each week students were given an increased amount of resources to choose from. I then, using daily engagement self-assessments tracked how their engagement changed over the course of the unit.
Results: My second round of action research yielded positive and exciting data. Students were most engaged when they were given three or four different sources to choose from, but showed a decrease in engagement above that amount. The data also showed an increase in student engagement compared to the first round of action research. This means that providing students with structured opportunities to make meaningful decisions raises their engagement dramatically.
Click here to open my research paper in a Google Doc.
Click here to open my Literature Review in a Google Doc.
Round 1 Research Presentation