Sunday, June 30, 2013

Growing as Learners

As I have been reading recently-published literature about education and learning, I have been specifically searching for practices that will help me create guidelines for educators to facilitate students building digital portfolios. But where do I start? How do I show others the value in visible learning? Everything I read keeps pointing back to reflection. Teachers need to reflect on their practices as much as students on their learning; teachers need to know their impact, how making teaching visible to the student is just as important as when students make their learning visible to the teacher. Reflection is an opportunity to enhance our character, acknowledge and work through human weaknesses and accept critical evaluation in order to grow as a human and a learner.

Learning is the transparent goal in education. Stakeholders need learning goals that are appropriately challenging, attainable, and deliberate. Goal-setting must be explicitly taught. Teachers should work with students to set their goals, gradually scaffolding independent goal-setting practices. Goals should be short-term, reachable within a class period or a few days. Teachers need to see learning through the eyes of their students; they should provide timely and meaningful feedback specific to the individual and his or her goals.

Feedback should come from multiple sources. Evidence shows teacher feedback is valuable, but in some cases peer feedback can be more motivating for learners.  Students need to see themselves as evaluators, self-monitoring, self-evaluating, self-assessing and self-teaching, but this doesn’t “just happen” without mindful and visible teachers who practice evaluating their own effect on student learning. When teachers see learning NOT happening, they intervene in calculated and meaningful ways. They are visible and intentional, building students’ conceptual understanding for evaluation of goals. When teachers model self-assessment and self-evaluation, they make students feel safe to take risks, make mistakes and learn by fixing their mistakes. Error is welcomed in this learning environment!

The teacher already loves the content; the teacher already has in-depth knowledge about the content. When helping students create and set goals, the teacher is mindful that the greater the challenge, the greater the need for constructive and meaningful feedback. As the student takes on the traditional role of the teacher, becoming knowledgeable about the content and teaching other learners, the teacher’s role transforms to that of the learner, seeking understanding about how the individual student learns, helping him choose from a repertoire of learning practices and tools that work for the individual.

The point I am trying to make here is that teachers can be extremely knowledgeable and versed about the content they teach; they are the expert in the classroom. So the most important role the teacher takes on becomes the role of learner, the learner of meaningful pedagogy, the learner of her students’ learning, the learner of how to explicitly teach and coach visible learning, beginning with her own goal-setting but extending to coaching students to make their learning visible, self-evaluate, reflect and grow.

*I am currently reading the following books about education:

Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning by John Hattie

Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners by Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church and Karin Morrison

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

The Skillful Teacher: Building Your Teaching Skills by Jon Sapphier, Mary Ann Haley-Speca and Robert Gower

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