Menu of Learning Activities

In reading Student Engagement Techniques, Elizabeth Barkley (2010) commented on a strategy she uses to promote self-directed learning with a music class. The strategy is to "offer a flexible menu of learning activities" (56).

This is a strategy I would like to use with the university preparation course I design materials and curriculum for at the moment. I taught this course for four years, and now I am working on improving the students experience and delivery of the course.

I believe that in a course with so many demands (assessments) and pressures, students can lose their motivation. This idea of a "menu" will give students an opportunity to choose what kinds of tasks they want to do. In designing the menu, I would like to ensure there is a lot of choice, but that each menu option for each category will achieve the required outcome.

Options could include, for example, for a course outcome of "speak effectively to an audience using formal register and discipline specific vocabulary"
  1. a research PowerPoint presentation of a topic of your choice
  2. a video lesson posted on YouTube teaching the audience about one specific area from your field
  3. a recorded "radio" interview with a classmate or professional from your field
  4. an unsupported persuasive TED Talk of five minutes on a theme selected by the class 
The specific learning objectives graded for these tasks are the same (register, intonation, use of English, organization, task achievement, etc.), which creates consistency in grading for the teachers. Having different options to choose from gives the students the power to determine their own learning path, thus increasing motivation and engagement.

For a digital project, I would like to attempt to create a live menu of learning activities for student to choose from. It would work like a menu app for a restaurant. After they have placed their order, they will receive a receipt, which will serve as a learning contract for what the students will be completing for their major assignments for the term.

I do not have the technological know-how to pull this off just yet, but, putting the idea out there is the first step. I believe that if I can get this project off the ground, the Pathway department I work with now will create a customized learning experience unlike any other school I have worked for. Wish me luck.


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