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Empowering Students: The Art of Decision-Making in Education

Updated: Apr 1

-Stephen Covey-

Decision-making, an essential yet often overlooked skill, is more than simple selection. It's a structured process that affects every aspect of our lives. Choosing what to wear or solving complex environmental problems requires weighing elements to select the best solution.

There are nine steps in decision-making

  1. Identify the Problem Requiring a Decision

  2. Gather Information

  3. Define Criteria

  4. Generate Alternatives

  5. Evaluate Alternatives

  6. Make the Decision

  7. Implement the Decision

  8. Reflect and Learn

  9. Adapt and Adjust

Real-World Problems for Decision-Making in Education

Students are more motivated to be involved in a decision-making project if it has a real-world application. Plastic waste in school environments presents a pressing real-world challenge to which students might apply their decision-making process. 

The Decision-Making Process Applied to Plastic Reduction

1. Identify the Decision: Decision-making begins with a clear goal to reduce plastic waste across the school and implement sustainable alternatives.

2. Gather Information: Informed decisions stem from relevant information. Students research eco-friendly alternatives, such as biodegradable utensils, reusable containers, or compostable packaging. They also collect data on costs, availability, and the environmental impact of each option. 

3. Define Criteria: Establishing criteria is pivotal. Criteria are specific standards which provide a systematic framework for matching options with desired outcomes. Criteria for reducing plastic are based on appropriate materials, how much plastic is reduced, cost-effectiveness and feasibility.

4. Generate Alternatives: Students brainstorm ideas like switching to reusable utensils, starting a 'bring-your-own-container' program or partnering with local suppliers for sustainable packaging.

5. Evaluate Alternatives: Each alternative is assessed against criteria, considering factors like practicality, long-term sustainability, ease of implementation and impact on the community. 

6. Make the Decision: Based on the evaluation, students choose the most suitable alternative that aligns with the criteria and addresses the identified problem.

7. Implement the Decision: Putting the chosen option into action involves developing a plan and executing it effectively. Students coordinate with stakeholders, allocate resources, and communicate the changes to the community. 

8. Reflect and Learn: Post-implementation, students gather feedback from the community to identify successes and highlight areas for improvement. Reflective data is valuable for future decisions. 

9. Adapt and Adjust: Decision-making is iterative; students remain open to adjustments based on feedback and changing circumstances. They continuously monitor the effectiveness of the chosen solution and make modifications as needed ensuring the long-term success of the plastic reduction initiative.

Other Areas for Investigation:

While plastic reduction in schools is a significant issue, there are numerous other areas where students can apply the decision-making process. The youngest students can articulate their ideas about things that affect them.

Classroom Setup and Seating Arrangements:

Students may collaborate with their teachers and peers to explore different classroom setups and seating arrangements. They assess options like traditional rows, group tables, or flexible seating layouts. The outcome is an optimal learning environment by considering interaction levels, focus, and comfort.

Community Gardening:

Investigating the establishment of a community garden can promote sustainable food production and community engagement. Criteria might be manageability, manpower, produce selection, cost and use.

Mental Health Awareness:

Students develop strategies to promote mental health awareness and support within the school community with open dialogue and resources.


Motivational Strategies:

Students collaborate with teachers to explore different motivational strategies for implementation in the classroom. They might brainstorm ideas such as gamification, goal-setting exercises, peer recognition programs, or incorporating student interests into lesson plans. By evaluating the potential effectiveness of each strategy and considering factors like student preferences, learning styles, and academic goals, students can select and implement motivational techniques that resonate with their peers and enhance overall motivation levels in the classroom.


Assignment Submission Methods:

Students could discuss and evaluate various methods for submitting assignments to teachers. They explore online platforms, email submissions, or physical drop-off points. Or suggest different mediums like graphics, movement, drama or music to relay their knowledge. Considering convenience, accessibility, and technology requirements, students can choose the most effective submission method for their class.

Building Decision-Making Skills in Students

Empowering students in decision-making necessitates a supportive learning environment. Educators guide students through the process by modelling exploration, critical thinking, and reflection. Real-world problem-solving exercises help students to apply decision-making skills in meaningful contexts.

Informed decision-making extends beyond academia, preparing students for success in various life domains. Active participation and reflection, develop students' resilience and shape their futures with clarity and intention.

Lili-Ann Kriegler (B. A Hons, H. Dip. Ed, M.Ed.) is an education consultant and award-winning author of Edu-Chameleon for teachers and Roots and Wings for parents. Lili-Ann’s specialisations are early childhood education (Birth to 9 years), leadership and optimising human thinking and cognition. She runs her consultancy, Kriegler-Education.

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