As teachers prepare to help students make learning visible and document what is revealed, I’ve noticed that the pace of our preparation work typically stalls in the same places over and over again: we struggle to define a focus for our studies, and we struggle to understand how learning is made visible. Until these tensions are resolved, it’s almost impossible to move forward.
I believe that documenting learning often requires us to capture different kinds of evidence over time. Capturing what learners know, think, and can do before, during, and after a learning experience can help us see changes over time. This is one way to make the learning process visible.
But what should we study? The ideas below often help the teachers I support. I’m wondering how you’d inform this list.
Five Ways to Make Learning Visible
1. Invite learners to document their process using photographs and video. Many of them have cell phones, and this is a worthwhile way to use them. When they’re ready to share their final product, their documentation should live beside it, allowing others to witness their journey and learn from them.
2. Provide plenty of time for reflection: before, during, and after learning. I’m pretty passionate about photo documentation, but I’m pretty sure I learn even more by engaging kids in regular reflective practice and requiring them to maintain a reflective notebook. Rather than approaching reflection as a “one and done” activity, we all learn much from reviewing these reflections over time.
3. Ask learners to use evidence to assess their personal strengths and needs over time.
4. Ask learners to assess different variables of the tasks they tackle and how they influences their learning and their success. Considerations:
- What can the learner can surmise about the difficulty of the task, based upon its design?
- How does the text type, structure, or complexity of the task or supplemental readings influence their learning and their ability to comprehend?
- How does the nature of the task inspire them to connect with and learn from others?
5. Ask learners to assess strategy variables as well. A few to consider:
- What strategies do learners employ in order to build a learning network?
- Which comprehension strategies serve them best?
- Which tools will help them learn strategically?
- Which problem solving strategies could serve them well in a given context?
- How could design thinking support their learning?
It’s been my experience that when teachers align their purposes for documentation with one or more of these approaches, the resulting work is focused and very revealing. This list is illustrative, not exhaustive though. What would you add? How would you change it?