6 Ways to Make Learning Visible

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learningHow do we distinguish knowledge, skills, and thinking from….learning? How do we make learning visible, so that we might surface and document powerful discoveries about the influence of our teaching on learners? These questions will guide several of my conversations with teachers on the ground this week, as we begin exploring John Hattie’s work and the Reggio Emilia approach.

Both concern themselves with the moves that students and teachers make as learning occurs, and both inspire teachers to commit to documentation, as the evidence captured helps teachers and students assess the impact of their efforts far better than grades do.

Here are six ways to make learning visible:

1. Display student work collected over time, and invite learners to reflect:

  • How is each piece distinct from the others?
  • What specific moves were made in the creation of each piece? How were the moves distinct as well?
  • Describe what was learned, using evidence from the work to support your thinking.

2. Make time and space for exhibition:

  • Exhibition differs from celebration in that the emphasis is on the learning rather than the product.
  • When learners participate in exhibitions, they identified key learning and strive to make it transparent to others who may benefit from it.
  • Exhibition doesn’t have to take significant amounts of time. Reserving a few moments at the end of a class period for learners to share their expertise and reflect on how it was gained is often enough.

3. Shoot your data:

  • Photos enable us to capture learning made transparent without disrupting the process.
  • Zooming in helps us notice things we may not have otherwise.
  • Photos serve to illustrate the stories that students tell about their learning, and stories can reveal different things that matter more than numbers might.

4. Audio record the learning:

  • Apps like Dragon Dictation and Storykit enable teachers and learners to audio record their work and relevant reflections.
  • Audiences and reviewers can add audio layers of their own to the original recording, so that learners may benefit from their observations and feedback.

5. Film the learning:

  • Like photos, video enables us to record learning without disrupting it.
  • Video enables learners to record experiences over time, though. Rather than capturing isolated moments, recordings like these allow us to study the moves that learners make from the beginning of an experience right up until the end.
  • Video is also dynamic, enabling us to study multiple aspects of the learning experience at once.

6. Sketchbooks are expansive and enable creative reflection:

  • Rather than reducing learning to numbers, sketchbooks provide teachers and learners a place where they can collect and organize learning made visible.
  • Most importantly, sketchbooks provide learners and teachers plenty of white space to fill. As bits of evidence find their way into the book, users reflect in the spaces in between. Data aren’t just for spreadsheets anymore.
  • Sketchbooks inspire doodling, visual note-taking, and the use of mixed media. These are beautiful ways to make learning visible and surface unexpected discoveries.
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A former English teacher, Angela Stockman is the founder of the WNY Young Writer's Studio, a community of writers and teachers of writing in Buffalo, New York. She is also an education consultant with expertise in curriculum design, instructional coaching, and assessment. Read more from Angela at Angelastockman.com.
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