Principles of Guiding Choice


Gail Boushey

December 11, 2014

December 12, 2014

Issue #334

When Joan and I needed to purchase a new video camera, I did a lot of research and then found a reputable camera shop here in Seattle. After realizing that I didn’t understand enough to make a final decision, I sized up the customer service representatives and approached Justin, who happened to be holding one of the top two cameras I had learned about online. We exchanged introductions, and then he started asking clarifying questions that would enable him to better assist me: What is your primary purpose for using this camera? Do you understand the different options available? Do you already know how to use a video camera? 

As I answered each question, I could almost see his brain go through a dichotomous key to narrow down the choices until we settled on one that would best match my needs and skills.

The principles Justin practiced as he helped me make an informed decision were not unique to that situation. They are practiced every day whenever anyone is helped to make a choice, whether the person is choosing a car, a washing machine, or in the case of our students, a good-fit book. Here are the principles Justin applied and how I think they relate to us as we help children select their next book.  

  1. Possess a depth of knowledge about the subject­: Acquiring a vast knowledge of books gives us a solid base from which to recommend titles.
  2. Systematically narrow down options: Asking questions and listening intently for nuggets of information helps us use our own dichotomous key to narrow down possibilities.
  3. Respect the choice made: Their perfectly matched book may not be our top choice or one that we deem expertly written, but in the end it is about keeping them engaged and motivated to continue reading.
  4. Offer follow-up support: We monitor students' selections by conferring with them as needed, providing support to ensure their success.

By asking for assistance from the right person with the right tools, the complex task of choosing a good-fit book can become a lifelong habit for our students. Let’s do whatever it takes to be that teacher for them. 


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