By Laura James, Head of Middle School
It’s amazing how much I learn about our students when they aren’t even here. Certainly, it’s when I watch them work and play that I see their spirit and energy and character. When I view NetClassroom, I see their growth and progress. But when I am alone wandering the hallways, there is a different kind of knowing: I see what our kids are thinking. Their learning is visible.
Making Learning Visible is a popular topic among progressive educators today, and my own experiences confirm how powerfully the practice of demonstrating understanding supports a rich culture of thinking. Harvard’s Project Zero has published research about the connections created by shared learning. The idea is that learning is actually a consequence of thinking, and getting our thinking out of our heads and into the world not only offers opportunity for others to learn from our work, it also requires us to attach language to our thoughts, to spend time with our ideas and to revise our work, which ultimately enhances our thinking.
Because the development of thinking skills is truly a social endeavor, it makes sense that displaying understanding deepens the experience of the community. In classrooms, there is a constant dynamic between the individual and the group. Collective learning happens through engagement with each other. Whether it’s in a skit, a poster, a poem, a video, a painting or an edible model of the solar system, the process of making learning visible illustrates the value we place on every person’s thoughts and provides evidence of authentic intellectual work.
While I do love the exciting pace of movement and industry that flows through our hallways, I highly value those times when I can take a moment to absorb the work on the walls. It looks nice because it is pretty and colorful, but at the heart, it is so much more than that.