Why does choice matter?

As far as I am concerned choice matters because it is an integral part of student interest.

 I often hear horror stories from music directors on the lack of interest from students in the music….well DUH?

Personally, I find it fascinating that some teachers do not use choice (especially in the arts).

I have found that by offering choice in music the interest is overwhelming and practice and musicianship actually increases!

What research supports it?

Teachers should ensure that students have choices in their learning.

Well aside from common sense on my part and the fact that choice seems so logical, I found this statement on choice from Sue Watson (2011).  Although it is directed at Special Education, it is equal in the arts and especially music: “Choice is key to the process. Choice of learning activity as well as choice in the assessment (how the student will demonstrate understanding).”

Another scholar Carolyn Coil (2007) mentions that: Product is differentiated by addressing different learning styles and providing choice in variety and different levels of complexity of products.”

However, our biggest research that supports DI and its concepts is our own federal government that showed Differentiation necessary for gifted students in Federal Law, PL 9 1-230, passed in 1972. It states:

Gifted students require differentiated educational programs and services beyond those normally provided by regular school programs in order to realize their contributions to themselves and society.

Give an example of how a specific student might react to it:

I see nothing but positive reaction as in this musical example:

Student A has incredible rhythm skills but no expression musicianship.  Student B has outstanding expression but lacks technique in rhythm.  By giving each a choice for a playing test the student can pick a style that fits their talent yet has some challenges for what they need work on in musicianship. 

So Student A chooses the selection that is technical in rhythms and syncopation but with some phrases of expression while Student B chooses the selection that is almost all melodic expression but with some challenges in syncopation.

Both choices highlight the talents of each student while also challenging them in other areas they are not so talented in.


I do use choice in music and it works very well for DI based on student interest.  Here is a great JAZZ ENSEMBLE CHOICE BOARD for lessons in the Blues.

From time to time I also teach regular General Music.  Here is a nice MUSIC APPRECIATION MENU that I like to use.

In Native American Culture I offer choice in studying the many Native American Nations as well as choice in many of the arts and crafts lessons.  Here I also offer many choices in the assignments and projects such as this NATIVE AMERICAN REGIONS CHOICE BOARD.


Heacox, D. (2009).  Making Differentiation a Habit.  Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit.

Watson, Sue. (2011).  Differentiated Instruction and Assessment.  Retrieved [06/20/2011] from

Coil, Carolyn.  (2007).  Pieces of Learning. Division of Creative Learning Consultants, Inc.  Retrieved [06/21/2011] from

Hall, T., Strangman, N., & Meyer, A. (2003).  Differentiated Instruction and Implications for UDL Implementation. Wakefield, MA: National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum. Retrieved [06/08/2011] from… 

One thought on “TEACHING CHOICE

  1. Nancy
    3:17 pm - 6-22-2011

    Jamie, thanks so much for this. The amount of thought an effort you put in to it obvious, and the Choice artifacts are lovely. I appreciate your brief review of the research as well. Nicely done.

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