How Much Choice is Too Much?

Passive acceptance of the teacher’s wisdom is easy to most boys and girls. It involves no effort of independent thought, and seems rational because the teacher knows more than his pupils; it is moreover the way to win the favor of the teacher unless he is a very exceptional man. Yet the habit of passive acceptance is a disastrous one in later life. It causes men to seek a leader, and to accept as a leader whoever is established in that position… It will be said that the joy of mental adventure must be rare, that there are few who can appreciate it, and that ordinary education can take no account of so aristocratic a good. I do not believe this. The joy of mental adventure is far commoner in the young than in grown men and women. Among children it is very common, and grows naturally out of the period of make-believe and fancy. It is rare in later life because everything is done to kill it during education… The wish to preserve the past rather than the hope of creating the future dominates the minds of those who control the teaching of the young. Education should not aim at passive awareness of dead facts, but at an activity directed towards the world that our efforts are to create. – Bertrand Russell

Presentation Type: One Hour Presentation
Audience: Educators, Primarily Higher Ed
Presenter(s): Katrin Becker


toomuchchoiceProviding a learner-centered perspective is in keeping with modern constructivist approaches to learning, and this means that courses must be designed with learner attributes and choice in mind. Concerns over accreditation and the need for accountability at the post-secondary level seem to contradict freedom of choice and flexibility of term work, but this need not be the case. Speaking from first-hand experience, we will talk about a range of approaches to providing more choice while still maintaining high standards.

  • How flexible should your deadlines be?
  • Should you let your students re-submit assignments?
  • Does everyone need to write?
  • What happens when you let your students contribute to course content.
  • A bonus system that works.