Title

Children's Choice in an Elementary School Classroom: Ownership in the Making

Date of Award

5-1-1997

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Education, Health & Behavior Studies

Abstract

Current educational theory and practice emphasize the importance of children's ownership in the learning process. Ownership evolves from a combination of authentic classroom experiences and student-made choices. Providing students with choices in learning may appear to be a simple task; yet, many educators find it to be daunting. This qualitative study describes one elementary literacy environment and the perception of choice as experienced by the students and the classroom teacher.

The data for this study were collected from a sixth-grade classroom using a fourtiered approach including: classroom observations, student interviews, formal and informal teacher interviews, and the collection of classroom artifacts. Classroom activities observed during the data collection included: sustained silent reading, writing time, literature studies, content area reading and writing, mini-lessons, activity time in which students responded to various literature they read, and author’s comer. During the latter portion of the study, nine of twenty-four sixth-graders were interviewed. These interviews focused on student’s past literacy experiences, his/her reconstruction of literacy events within the classroom setting, and his/her perception of those literacy experiences.

The data illustrated four factors affecting the amount of input the sixth-graders had in their learning: time, money, support, and community. Time constraints included both the planning for and implementing of student choice within the classroom curriculum. Money emerged as a concern in that providing various materials and resources to supplement individual student interests involves significant financial investment. The teacher found administrative support a must for allowing her the flexibility to implement student choice. Finally, the community of the classroom, including the maturity of the students, has an impact in facilitating choice within a classroom setting.

The students encountered a variety of learning situations, labeled as controlled choice, framed choice, and open choice, which affected their ownership of the learning process. Through the course of this study, it became apparent that educators need to find a balance between controlling children’s choices in the classroom and allowing for total choice. Consequently, in whole language classrooms, where choice is valued, there is a continuum of choice which reflects the natural conditions of learning.

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