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Making Learning Visible: The Power of Group Learning and Documentation in Classrooms and Communities


Making Learning Visible online course page

Course Outline

In this course, you will examine group learning through the Making Learning Visible (MLV) framework. You will explore documentation as a tool for improving teaching and learning. Documentation is a way to “make visible” both what and how students learn. Through careful observation, collecting evidence, interpretation, and sharing information, you will learn to produce a record that both students and teachers can look back on to build self-awareness and guide future teaching practice.

In each two-week session participants will:

  • Explore new ideas through readings and multimedia
  • Interact with local and online peers
  • Enact classroom tryouts
  • Reflect on course ideas
  • Share experiences, student work, and other artifacts, while developing a course project
Session 1 (Orientation)

Session 1: Orientation

In this session you will become acquainted with the course platform as well as your course colleagues. You will also do some preliminary reflections on goals — both the course goals and your own personal goals — in preparation for Session 2. Please note that this session is only one week long. (Sessions 2 through 7 are each two weeks long.)

The goals of this session are to help you:

  1. Understand how instructor, coaches, and fellow learners will support your learning.
  2. Understand the overarching goals for the course, participant responsibilities, and the course online environment.
  3. Identify your own learning goals for the course and become acquainted with your instructors and fellow learners.
Session 2

Session 2: Introduction: Challenging Educational Assumptions

In this session, you will be introduced to the Making Learning Visible (MLV) framework for supporting individual and group learning. You will understand the importance of critically examining four assumptions about education commonly made in the U.S. and other countries. You will also become familiar with key features of learning groups and how documentation supports both what and how a group learns.

In this session we’ll be working toward the following goals:

  1. Understand important assumptions about teaching and learning commonly held in the U.S. and other countries and reasons to challenge them.
  2. Recognize — and challenge — some of your own assumptions about teaching and learning, and about teachers and learners.
  3. Begin to appreciate the complexity of documentation as a tool for teaching and learning.
  4. Become familiar with the history of the MLV research.
Session 3

Session 3: Learning Groups Don’t Just Happen: Supporting Learning Groups in the Classroom and Community

In Session 3, you will deepen your understanding of the distinguishing features of a learning group and five strategies for promoting group learning in an educational setting: nurturing children’s capacities to learn together; designing engaging tasks that benefit from a group perspective; facilitating conversations that deepen learning; forming groups intentionally; and choreographing individual, small-group, and whole-class learning. You will choose one strategy to experiment with and share your experience using a simple protocol.

In this session we’ll be working toward the following goals:

  1. Understand what makes a group a learning group.
  2. Understand different strategies for supporting learning groups in the classroom and community.


Session 4

Session 4: Don’t Just Do Something; Sit There! From Learning to Document to Documenting to Learn  

In this session, you will learn about the documentation process as a combination of intentionality and listening as well as key documentation practices and strategies. You will also begin your course "MLV project." Documentation is often guided by a specific question about learning. For your MLV project, you may decide to develop a shared inquiry question as a team or you may choose to experiment with several different strategies for supporting individual and group learning.

In this session we will be working toward the following goals:

  1. Understand the four core practices of documentation and the related strategies within each that support learning.
  2. Understand that documentation can serve both formative and summative assessment purposes and that documentation is not an end in itself.
  3. Understand how documentation serves different learning purposes and audiences across four contexts — inside and outside the classroom, and during and after a learning experience
Session 5

Session 5: Making Learning and Learners Visible in an Age of Standards and Accountability

Carrying out this work amidst the pressures of coverage, standards, externally imposed mandates, and accountability can be challenging. In this session, you will see how the practices of group learning and documentation can work together to help you and your students meet standards and address accountability concerns. You will also participate in a group learning experience as either a learner OR a documenter in order to better understand what is involved in each role and the relationship between the two. You will continue your project exploration by: 1) choosing either an MLV tool to investigate your inquiry question, OR 2) carrying out one or more of the small moves you identified in Session 4; documenting and discussing what happens; and identifying a next step to support future learning.

In this session we’ll be working toward the following goals:

  1. Understand how documentation supports individual and group learning by directly experiencing learning in a group or documenting it.
  2. Understand how MLV practices support meeting standards in at least three ways: by building a bridge between students and standards, by grounding standards in a shared and visible reference point, and by demonstrating learning not typically measured on standardized tests.
  3. Understand that psychometric accountability is but one form of accountability; documentation provides an alternative form of assessment that can complement standardized tests
Session 6

Session 6: Creating Culture, Values, and Democracy within and outside the Classroom

In this session, you will deepen your understanding of the ways in which learning groups create as well as transmit culture, values, and democracy within and outside the classroom. Documentation, in particular, supports democratic practice by generating a research orientation, inviting in multiple voices, facilitating listening, and producing cultural artifacts. The group gains a new identity when its goals include contributing to a larger and collective body of knowledge. You will also continue your project exploration by: carrying out the next step you identified in Session 5, documenting what happens, and making what you learn public.

In this session we’ll be working toward the following goals:

  1. Understand that members of a learning group create as well as transmit culture, values, and democracy (TL #1).
  2. Understand that documentation is a powerful tool for supporting democratic practice.
Session 7

Session 7: Taking Stock and Moving Forward: Sustaining this Work in the Future

This session has three purposes: to provide you with the experience of sharing your MLV project and receiving feedback to further your learning; to allow you to reflect on and synthesize your understandings of course ideas, principles, and practices; and to orient you toward future learning and action in and beyond your classrooms as you continue to support your students’ learning with and from others.

In this session we’ll be working toward the following goals:

  1. Understand how making learning visible makes learning possible.
  2. Understand how to sustain your learning and this work in the future.
  3. Understand how more public presentations of students' learning processes and products can both reflect and shape (and possibly transform) school cultures.