Where Are You on the Choice Spectrum?

Participants in our Choice Based Art Education class walk through three really important processes.

  1. Discovering where they stand today on the “Choice Spectrum.”
  2. Making a strategic decision about where they’d like to stand on the spectrum or what colors they would mix.
  3. Planning the process of reaching that goal in a way that fits their style, their school, and their students.

Even if you can’t join us for the class, I wanted you to take a peek at the brand new AOE Choice Spectrum. This spectrum combines major choice-based philosophies (some dating back to the 1800s) from both the art education and general education worlds into a simple unified guide, to help you envision your ideal art room and how choice can be strategically integrated into your art curriculum.

chocie spectrum

It’s not as black and white as some imagine (ie: Full Choice versus No Choice). There’s a broad and colorful spectrum of choice options you can integrate into your art room.

Where do you fall on the spectrum today? What areas of new learning do you want to discover to widen your approach?

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. During the class itself, we explore each level in greater detail and hear first-hand from teachers who are actually walking the walk at different levels (and mixing colors on the spectrum to create a hybrid curriculum!)

If you’re interested, Choice Based Art Education runs every month, so you can secure a time that’s right for you.

It’s important to keep in mind there is no “right or wrong” when teaching art, just different approaches. You know your students, you know your community, and you know yourself! Remember: Art in the hands of our students is a positive thing, regardless of the level of choice. However, as professionals, we are always looking to sharpen our craft and discover new ways of teaching. I hope this spectrum gives you something to consider!


Where do you fall on the spectrum?

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • HipWaldorf

    Great chart Jessica, this is such a fascinating subject! Just curious why you placed Waldorf in Emergent Choice? The elementary curriculum and mediums are strictly teacher led. I have only seen real choice in high school, similar to public schools. The philosophy behind Waldorf is certainly Emergent Choice!

    • Hi HipWaldorf – Really good question, you are right. We actually toyed with both Limited Choice and Emergent Choice for Waldorf. I would love to talk with you more about Waldorf, it’s so fascinating. I believe you perviously taught in a Waldorf school, correct? It’s important to note that each category can be mixed to create a hybrid curriculum and each of the philosophies can also lend themselves to other areas of the spectrum. This is just a basic starting point.

      • HipWaldorf

        Jessica, I would love to discuss Waldorf with you! Do you have my email?

        • Katherine Brown

          This is not a reply. I teach Journey to Careers to 7th graders in Shreveport, Louisiana. Is there a cite that I can use that is similar to this one? Or can you help me find choice work with my students? Ms. Bailey, would you please email me with any help? I am despairate! Here is an example of what I use: Bingo Choice sheet. It included make up work and some vocabulary games. HELP!

          • Alecia Eggers

            Hey Katherine, if you just search “Choice” in our search bar, you may find some helpful articles! If you’re still having trouble, I’d consider asking the Art Teachers group on Facebook – they’re pretty responsive! Hope that helps! :)

  • Susan

    I disagree with your placement of UbD in the category of “abundant choice” My district currently follows that model and as a Choice teacher I find it very restrictive.
    What I love about Choice teaching is that I never know what the student outcomes will be until the students produce them! In Ubd the teacher is planning the performance tasks. In an “abundant choice” classroom I would expect to see students constructing their own learning experiences. I would place UbD under the category of “boundary choice.”

    • Anna

      I would love to SEE a lesson plan and rubric for Choice. That’s what the administrators always want. Could you please provide me a visual? Thank you

    • Amanda Stine

      I see UbD as just a method of choosing students’ learning objective from the National Standards and, designing the formative assessment tasks throughout the stages of the art creation process of students documenting their project goals, then designing a theme-based art project. The standards from the NCASS are very broad, so it can be implemented in a variety of ways. How is it limiting to you? I see your perspective that “abundant choice” students are constructing their learning experiences, but that can also be done with UbD.

  • Interesting chart! It is funny how this is such a hot topic these past couple of years when choice has always played a varied role in art education. In the end, the human spirit will always find ways to assert itself even in the most subtle of ways.

    I like how you put a positive spin on the naming conventions you used. I also appreciated that you didn’t once use the word ‘authentic’ and rightly point out that student choice in art education is not black and white, right or wrong.

  • RWS

    I guess that my classroom falls into the “Limited Choice” category but that title makes it sound like this is a negative thing, and in practice, my curriculum allow for endless individual variations for each project. The kids all seem to love the chance to explore a theme and see how they can do it “their own way.” I teach one project at a time but have a lot of room for the students (from pre-K up through 8th grade) to make decisions about how to interpret the instructions. Nothing ever ends up looking cookie cutter but when the class artwork is displayed as a group, one can definitely see what the project was all about. I have a lot of “free choice” in my after-school classes and honestly, it drives me a little nutty to have the students all needing a different material and amount of hand holding all at once!

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  • Jackie Carpenter

    May I have permission to print this chart for my pre-service art education students?

    -Jackie Carpenter

    • Alecia Eggers

      Go for it Jackie! :)

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  • Amanda Stine

    I love being able to see all the different kinds of art curriculum laid on in the simple visual! Personally, I use a combination of a TAB (Teaching for Artistic Behaviors), DBAE (Disciplined Based Art Education) with PBL (Problem Based Learning) experiences to showcase the interconnectedness between the visual arts and students’ real world experiences, using the NCCAS (National Core Coelation Art Standards) with UbD (Understanding by Design) framework to ensure my students are learning the essentials but challenging themselves through meaningful themes and time-constraints. I feel that using themes really
    does allow the kids to make a strong connection to the project, exploring world ideas such as identity, emotion, conflict, perseverance, and more. Art allows kids to see outside themselves to develop empathy, but also to learn a bit more about themselves and their personalities. In my own practice, I have my students complete a variety of surveys in order to choose our quarterly subject matter, themes, and materials, and then we take a day to plan an art project everyone would enjoy. I provide lots of options of art projects and we choose the majority.