Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Give students choice, where appropriate

By giving students choices, instructors can enhance student motivation (Adams et al., 2017). This lets students address topics that are culturally relevant to them. It also gives some agency to students over their own learning. There are a variety of ways to offer choice, depending on your level of flexibility and comfort. Here are a few examples:

  • Allow students to choose the topic for their project or paper (and have them run it by you in advance).
  • Allow students to choose the format of their final project (oral presentation, recorded podcast, or a written document).
  • Revisit your assessments and their alignment to your learning goals. If oral presentation skills are not part of your learning goal, requiring public speaking in a big group may not be the best assessment for every student. Instead, give students the choice to express their knowledge in a different format.
  • Allow students to choose one or several topics of discussion/learning in your class when possible. You could reserve some time at the end of the semester and poll your students about what they would like to learn.
    • “We are going to learn about neurobiological diseases in this class. Some of you might have an interest towards specific diseases, and I would like to offer the option to cover those this semester. Let me know by email by next week, which one you would like to survey during the last two weeks of the semester and I will choose the most popular ones.”


Adams, N., Little, T. D., & Ryan, R. M. (2017). Self-Determination Theory. In Development of Self-Determination Through the Life-Course (pp. 47-54). Springer Netherlands

GO TO:  Universal Design for Learning