Making Learning Visible 2004: A Map of Our Work
This map represents a collective landscape of the work of the 2003-2005 MLV Seminar. It contains clusters of questions and ideas that arose during the individual and collective work of the seminar. We do not consider the map complete; rather, the concepts to which it refers, our relationships to them, and the map itself are all likely to change as our individual and group work continues.
The Intentionality of the Group
The degree of intentionality in terms of who is in the group and why it has come together is part of what makes a learning group distinct from other types of groups.
Factors that influence how a learning group functions and learns include the size of the group; the abilities and interests of its members; friendships; racial, ethnic, and socio-economic make-up; and whether membership is voluntary. What are other factors, and which combinations enhance the functioning and learning of the group?
Why the group has come togetherin relation to what purpose, project, problem, or topic of studyis a key part of the group's identity.
The Development of Group Learners and Learning Groups
How do individual learners' developmental stages influence the formation, functioning, and demonstration of understanding of learning groups? What is the developmental trajectory of the learning group itself?
Culture, Values, and Democracy
What are the cultural challenges that limit our ability to consider new possibilities and opportunities for individual and group learning? Which aspects of culture support individual and group learning?
Cultural challenges in the U.S. include assumptions, values, and beliefs about the relationship between individual and group; the nature of teaching, learning, and assessment; images of the child; and the role of school in the transmission of culture and knowledge. One question that keeps emerging is how to conduct this work in the context of high-stakes testing.?
Giving adequate regard to the socioeconomic and cultural background of the individuals in a group can optimize opportunities for learning and increase the chances that all members feel invited to contribute to and receive from the group.
The Relationship between Individual and Group
Learning is the result of both individual and group activity. Learning in groups is essential to how individual learning is constructed; learning groups can also solve problems and create products that no individual alone could achieve.
Which tasks are best suited for individual learning and which for group? Some students make distinctions between group work and group learning.
What is the nature of the movement and balance between individual and group work, and small and large group work?
What do you do if there is a tension between community-building (including everyone's ideas) and learning? When an individual's ideas are not aligned with the group's, what do the individual and the group do?.
How Learning Groups Function
How do learning groups function? What do they look like?
The aesthetic dimension of learning can be thought of as including the set-up of space and choice of materials, the design of the learning process, and the nature of ideas. How do the emotional and aesthetic dimensions of learning contribute to group learning?
Learning groups in which members have similar abilities function differently from groups in which there is a wide range of abilities. We need to learn more about the functioning of both types of groups in order to determine when to form which type.
As adult members of learning groups, we are exploring the role of the adult as facilitator of the group. In addition to planning and facilitating, the adult's role also includes identifying and making visible the learning that is taking place (and inviting students to do so as well).
In addition to learning content, learning groups share a focus on learning how to learn in a group and understanding the understanding of others. Documentation is very helpful to this type of metacognitive activity. What is the role of reflection and metacognition in the group? How can metacognition and reflection help change a group's or individual's identity, especially if it is negative?
Indicators of Understanding
In order to know whether a learning group is supporting and demonstrating understanding, we need to look at the individual and group learning processes and products.
How do we know the individuals in the group are learning? Some tentative answers to this question are provided in the Making Learning Visible book (pp. 258-67) [see the Propositions resource on this site]
The focus of learning in groups extends beyond the learning of individuals to create a collective body of knowledge. Members of the group feel like they are contributing to a larger, more meaningful whole.
One way to support the understanding of learning groups is what Reggio educators refer to as things in relation or the pedagogy of relationships and listening. By these phrases, they seem to refer to some or all of the following: expressing thinking in different languages (e.g., verbal, graphic, musical); considering things or ideas in relation to each other; and creating and reflecting on these relationships with others (see also Making Learning Visible  pp.82-83).
Making Learning Visible
Documentation is a powerful tool for helping to understand, make visible, and nurture individual and group learning, as well as deepening understanding about teaching and learning more generally. The focus of documentation should be making learning visibleboth the acts and products of learningand supporting and extending that learning.
Documentation offers students and teachers opportunities for reflection, metacognition, and self- and peer-assessment. As Carlina Rinaldi says, ensuring listening and being listened to, as well as the ability to observe oneself and the group from an external point of view, can be considered two of the primary purposes of documentation (see Making Learning Visible  pp.83-84).
Documentation can be seen as visible listening. What artifacts can teachers collect to make learning visible? What can teachers learn about children's learning by accompanying artifacts with their own adult analysis or reflection?
How can teachers, other adults, and students be involved in documenting? How can teachers learn to manage the two tracks of documenting while teaching?
Documentation is a form of communication that needs to be created with others in mind; it supports the learning of teachers as well as students. Who are the different audiences for documentation and when does it make sense to share it with whom?
© 2004 Making Learning Visible Project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education
Copyright 2006 Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Harvard University.
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