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Student Choice in the Westonka Personalized Learning Model

This is the second in a series of four articles on Westonka’s Personalized Learning Model by Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Mark Femrite. The first article explored reasons why personalized learning is important and the goals and specific instructional strategies of the personalized learning model. To read that piece, click this link: Article #1: Personalized Learning in Westonka Public Schools

What is student choice and what does it look like in the Westonka Personalized Learning Model?

Student choice in the Westonka Personalized Learning Model is intended to include the student in decision-making about how they will learn and how they will demonstrate their learning. Research has shown that students who personally make decisions about their learning versus being told what to do are more likely to take responsibility for and commit to these choices (Kohn, 1993).

Student choice includes the following:

  1. Learner Profiles: A profile of each student as a learner is called a learner profile. Student strengths and gap areas, motivation and goals, learning styles, and other personal data related to a student’s learning experience and needs all may be captured in a learner profile.
  2. Differentiated Instruction and Assessments: Differentiation consists of teachers responding to variations among learners in the classroom. Differentiation can be completed through content, process (how a student learns best), product (showing mastery of concepts) and affect/environment (where learning takes place). Whenever a teacher reaches out to an individual or small group of students and varies his/her teaching in order to meet the learning needs of students, that teacher is differentiating instruction.
  3. Performance and Project-Based Assessments: Performance-based assessments measure a student’s ability to apply the skills and knowledge learned from a unit or units of study. Typically, the task challenges students to use their higher-order thinking skills to create a product or complete a process. Project-based learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem or challenge.

The following is an example of what student choice might look like in a middle school or high school English class:

In many units, students will have a choice in how they learn about different literature and language arts concepts based on their learning style and/or personal preference. Time is spent at the beginning of the year helping students with these choices through information gathered on a student learner profile. Students will also have a choice of the type of assessment of learning targets for most units. They will have choice in topics for research and also the final product.

Not all of the student choice strategies will be present in a classroom at one time. The age and maturity of students dictates the degree of structure the teacher puts in place for successful learning to occur. The goal of providing student choice is to help students take greater ownership of their learning and develop deeper engagement during the learning process.

Westonka’s aim through the use of personalized learning strategies is to increase student ownership and engagement with their learning and raise achievement. The key to this focus is knowing our students as individuals - their gifts, skills, strengths, gaps in learning, how they learn and their passions and interests.

For more information on Personalized Learning strategies, please check out the following websites:

Reference for this article: Kohn, A. (1993, September). Choices for children: Why and how to let students decide. Phi Delta Kappan. Available:


Mark Femrite
(952) 491-8002