Teacher as Learning Documentarian

Looking at student work

‘Looking at student work’, the focus in the Deeper Learning MOOC this week, has me reminded of a project I have been working on this school year.

I teach in an inquiry learning elementary school  (PYP), an environment which facilitates and empowers deeper learning very effectively. As I have explored inquiry in the classroom, I have noticed that I do far less teaching and far more documentation.

Students engaged in authentic learning shouldn’t be bothered by standards or specific learning outcomes, yet they constantly accomplish them. As a teacher, I see myself more as a learning documentarian seeking out evidence of their learning as they inquire into their interests and curiosities.

Google Doc experiment

In order to document learning according to an established continuum, I devised a shared google document which allows teachers to document learning individually for each student and can be used by any stake holder to review like a portfolio. It’s still experimental, but I can already see how it is helping to maintain a balance between student-driven learning and traditional learning outcomes or standards.

How it works

Our learning continua are organized by phases, so I color coded each. When a student demonstrates a particular learning outcome, I indicate the date and hyperlink it to a digital version of the artifact. Examples so far have included scanned writing assessments, photographs, Evernote entries, videos, and blog posts. When an artifact is recorded, the shade of the box for that learning outcome is made lighter. A white box indicates a mastered learning outcome.
The example I provided in this post is for a sixth grader, so I took it for granted that the first three phases were mastered. Please have a look at phases four and five and follow the links to get a sense of how this type of document can work. If it were used from a young age and accompanied the student through elementary school, it would serve as an authentic representation of their learning.
This is still an experiment, and your comments and suggestions are highly welcomed. I would certainly appreciate collaborators on this project to develop an efficient system to document deeper learning!
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Bart Miller

Father, Teacher, Composer, Philosopher

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