Critical Thinking Exercise - Forced Choice

What is a Forced Choice?

Forced choice is a critical thinking exercise where students are given several choices, and must pick one based on the teacher directions... and then they must explain the reason for their choice.  Not making a choice is not an option!

To make their choices, students must go beyond the standard definition of the terms (or what their personal favorite choice may be) and consider characteristics and distinctive attributes of each choice.  


Here is the typical format of the answers you will hear:

"I am like  ______________ because..."

What do "Forced Choice" exercises look like in the classroom?

A simple forced choice question is "Are you peanut butter or jelly."  Of course, there will be very few times when you want your students to ponder which of these sandwhich fillers they are.  Instead, you`ll want to cater these problems to the subject matter at hand.  We`ve already written a wide-selection of Forced Choice scenarios organized by topic, and they`ll be easy to create on your own once you grasp the concept. 

For example, if you are teaching about electrical circuits, you may ask, "Are you an insulator or a conductor?  Why?"

This question cannot be answered without more details.  It is up to your students to go  beyond the standard definition and consider characteristics and distinctive attributes of each choice.  For example, you might hear:

"I am a conductor because..."

  • "...I like to get things going."
  • "...I like to lead the way"
  • "....I like to organize friends and keep everyone working together."


"I am an insulator because..."
  • "... I like to protect others from bullies"
  • "...I shut out the world around me."
  • "...I try to ignore people that try to distract me."

Do Forced Choice Scenarios work for all subject areas and grade levels?

 Yes.  Without a doubt... yes!  The Forced Choice scenario can not only be used in multiple subject areas, but also for the many topics within a given subject area.  We have already provided a wide range of Forced Choice scenarios in the core subjects, and these can easily be used as a model for teachers who want to write their own to fit their classroom.

The same flexibility applies to using Forced Choice scenarios across grade levels.  What is especially interesting in this case is that the same Forced Choice scenarios could easily be used for a kindergartner or a senior in high school... and each student would benefit greatly from the exercise. 

Let`s use this one for an example:  "Are you most like a beam of light or a shadow?"  A teacher might ask this to a group of elementary students, hoping to hear basic inferences about light such as, "...I am a beam of light because I am `bright` ". or "I am a shadow because there`s a dark side to me." At the other end of the spectrum, a high-school teacher might expect to students to have a full understanding of light and waves, hoping to hear responses like, "I am a beam of light because my mind moves faster than they eye can see" or "I am a shadow because I can be cool when everything around me is heating up."

What`s the one thing to remember about Forced Choice Scenarios?

It`s all about the process.  Teaching students the formulas and the facts and the figures is just the first step.  Forced Choice scenarios require students to tap into that basic information, analyze it, and see how those attributes apply to the given question.  That develops a greater understanding of the content.