Skip to main content

How Can Teachers Make Their Professional Learning More Visible?

No one can logically argue that current and future education won't be based largely on our ability to leverage social networks for learning. There is plenty of rhetoric describing the emergence of web 3.0, but how many educators are practicing what they readily admit is the foundation of making our students "future-ready"? 
I applaud Cale Birk for suggesting talk can be cheap, and it's time to feature action. In his post, "#EDUDO - The New Hashtag", Cale asks educators to transparently share artifacts of learning using the Twitter hashtag, #EDUDO.

Several years ago, my sons became interested in downhill skiing. It had been some time since I had been on the powdery slopes, but skiing presented an opportunity for the three of us to actively learn and grow our skill together. I wanted to be able to articulate and demonstrate safe and effective skiing to my sons. In order to do this, I did some online research, talked to experts at the pro shops, and took several lessons from a friend who happened to be a ski patrol professional. The three of us then took lessons together, and before long we were progressing from green square (beginner) to blue circle (intermediate), then to black diamond (expert) runs. Modeling the learning process and focusing on skill development has helped make skiing an enjoyable bonding experience for us.

Back in the classroom, some content-focused teachers are missing a tremendous opportunity. Instead of focusing on content knowledge, teachers should be visibly sharing how they learn. They should be modeling learning supported by social networks. Much like the skiing analogy, teachers and students can become partners engaged in learning through technology and global connections. Transparently sharing learning tends to increase accountability and motivation. Knowing this, it makes sense that all learners would have digital portfolios shining a spotlight on their learning and growth. Sharing these portfolios fits perfectly into Mr. Birk's #EDUDO initiative.

Why should educators share their professional learning transparently?

  • Transparency is good for the educator as they gain relevance by sharing with authentic audiences. He, or she, acquires skills and competencies that can be used to assist students to become self-determined, socially networked learners.
  • Transparency is good for students as they see visibly how their teachers are learning and sharing.
  • Transparency is good for parents who see their child's teachers as a growing, diligent, and relevant professionals.
  • Transparency is good for colleagues who can learn from what is being shared while offering local perspective providing challenge, and contributing to further growth.
  • Transparency is good for networks of educational learners as global insights and collaborations can add to depth of knowledge and diverse perspective.
  • Transparency is good for evaluating administrators who are are looking for clear evidence of professional growth that supports student learning.

Simply stated, transparency, or making our learning more visible, contributes to the learning of others. This is why I suggest to our teachers and students, "It's not enough to be a digital citizen, nearly anyone can do that. Be a digital contributor because the benefits are reciprocal and ongoing." 

"The biggest effects on student learning occur when teachers become learners of their own teaching, and when students become their own teachers." - John Hattie

How can teachers make their professional learning more visible?

  1. Identify relevant standards that support your professional growth. Using these standards as targets, create and share your professional goals in a public forum. A blog works nicely for this as the teacher can use posts for frequent reflections and journaling of progress while pages can highlight projects and artifacts that reference the selected standards and goals. You will notice that my recent posts are "labeled" and "referenced" to corresponding ISTE-C standards. (My ISTE-C Professional Learning Page)
  2. Curate or create rubrics that help evaluate progress towards professional goals. The descriptors will help bring more focus and explanation to professional learning targets. Share success and failures alike as both outcomes will contribute to learning. Digital products can be easily linked or embedded into blog posts and pages.
  3. Publicly share growth and celebrate mastery so that others will identify you with a particular competency, skill, or achievement. This is not bragging, it's documenting and sharing learning. Use digital resources to create a portfolio of your professional learning. Digital badges are becoming a popular method of identifying competencies and achievements. These can be displayed as part of the professional portfolio.

Here are examples of resources that can make professional learning more visible.

Example - template for my professional goals and targeted standards (plan)

Danielson Goal
Links to Processes
Links to Products
(3d) - Engaging staff & students in the successful use of educational technology
  1. Teaching, Learning & Assessments

(4d) - Participating in a professional community
  1. Content Knowledge & Professional Growth

Example - headings for a rubric to assess teacher technology integration (targets)

Example - Slides to reference professional learning to selected standards (results)

Teachers readily acknowledge and appreciate students who are able to visibly share their learning. Teachers should apply this standard to their own professional learning. We raise our game, and we contribute to the learning of others when we share our professional growth to authentic audiences. You can help turn this post into a conversation by addressing the following prompts in the comments section.
  1. How do you learn?
  2. How do you make your learning visible to your students, and colleagues?

Related Reading

Visible Learning (John Hattie) - Victoria State Government Report


Jason said… is a great online resource for tracking and sharing everything you learn from any source.
Aaron Davis said…
Love this post Robert. I could not agree more about making learning more visible. I am reminded of Clive Thompson's post in Wired about the benefits of blogging where he stated that even the worst blog makes us smarter ( Last year I did exactly what you said, collected all my data and reflections in a Google Presentation, but I wasn't sure if I really needed to publicly shared it. However, much that led up to it was published so I guess I probably could have.
Thank you Aaron. I haven't considered the blogging benefit you share, but you are exactly right - I learn something from each post, even the weaker ones. And, the hope is that others are learning something, or adding perspective, as well.
With respects to your slides, would anyone else benefit from seeing your learning process and reflections? Personally, I find it helpful to see the thinking of others in a visual form.
I love these types of conversations - they illustrate exactly what's great about socially networked learning. Thanks again for reaching out and contributing to my learning. Bob

Popular posts from this blog

What Teachers Can Learn From Effective Coaches

In my educational world teaching and coaching involve the same processes. The people that impacted my own learning most significantly were coaches. Could it be that great coaches were ahead of their time with respects to instructional best practices? Let's take a look at ten coaching practices that thankfully have found their way into the classroom. Standards-based Grading - coaches aren't concerned with arbitrary measures of success such as letter grades. Great coaches identify a requisite set of skills that are necessary for advancement and success. Promotion and achievement are based upon clearly identified levels of skill mastery.  Authentic assessment - coaches are looking for their athletes to demonstrate their skill mastery under game-like situations. The best coaches incorporate game simulations and competitive, game-like drills into their practices. Winning coaches will use the contests as assess

Board Games in the School Library: 3 Reasons Why It's a Winning Play

"Play is the highest form of research."  - Albert Einstein “Play is the work of the child.”  – Maria Montessori In our recently remodeled school media center, we have a space dedicated to active engagement in fun learning activities. Part maker space, part literacy lounge, board games are being incorporated to promote a culture of joyful learning. Whether it's a game of Rummy , Yahtzee , or Scrabble , family game night serves as a communication elixir and solidifies our domestic climate of togetherness. Shouldn't similar opportunities for interaction, challenge, and fun exist somewhere in our schools? Broken families, cultural fragmentation, and poverty are impacting opportunities for children to play. As we unpacked and tagged our new media center games, I was more disappointed than shocked by the number of students who had never played Monopoly , Boggle , or Sorry . One skeptical teacher commented, "Oh great, now we're letting students pl

Self-Directed vs. Self-Determined Learning; What's the Difference?

"We need to move beyond the idea that an education is something that is provided for us, and toward the idea that an education is something that we create for ourselves." - Stephen Downes In this age of abundance of information, shifting classroom pedagogy isn't nearly enough to make learning in school more relevant and authentic for the learner. Self-directed learning ( andragogy ), and self-determined learning ( heutagogy ) are the ideals necessary in making students " future ready " to live and learn in a web-connected world. While original research applied these concepts to mature learners, it has become apparent that even young children have an abundant capacity for recognizing and directing their learning. Anyone who has observed toddlers learning how to walk and talk understand the motivation and skill development that quickly develops during these processes. Considered by some to be on a learning continuum, self-directed learning, and self-determined