Sunday, February 17, 2019

The Two Most Important Questions to Ask to Determine if Learning is Taking Place

There are so many thoughts and ideas as to what learning really looks and feels like. From these conversations, educators form their own perspectives and opinions that best align with the vision, mission, and goals of their classroom, school or district.  However, a consensus is critical if the goal is scalable change that results in improved learning outcomes. As I have written extensively in the past, research and evidence should play a significant role in what learning can and should be as well as whether or not it is actually taking place.  Common vision, language, expectations, and look-fors go a long way to creating a vibrant learning culture.

Recently I posted the following tweet. 

It seemed to resonate with many educators.  I decided to post this update when I saw my friend Greg Bagby share an image of the Rigor Relevance Framework where technology is considered. Thus, my tweet referenced a digital angle.  In hindsight though, I should have written the tweet to align with what I genuinely believe in.  Some of the commentary I received reinforced what I always speak and write about as well as coach on; that the two questions I posed are important both with and without technology.  So, when it comes to learning, the two most important questions are:

  1. Are kids thinking at increasing levels of knowledge taxonomy?
  2. How are kids applying their thinking in relevant ways?

The Rigor Relevance Framework provides a practical way to determine the answers to both of these questions by looking at the level of questioning and the tasks that kids are engaged in.  

Consider it a litmus test of sorts. Where do the instruction (what the teacher does) and the learning (what the kid does) fall in terms of the four quads?  Good instruction can, and should, lead to empowered learning, with movement along both the thinking and application continuums. The point here is to not reside in Quad D as that is a place you visit once and a while, but it should be an area that learners are moved to at some point during a unit of study. When technology is added to the mix, it should be utilized purposefully by the learner in ways that address the two questions posed above.

The image above conveys a critical point.  We should never look at technology as a distinct element separate from curriculum, instruction, and assessment.  Each of these in their own right intersects in ways to support and enhance learning. It is essential to understand that the role of any digital tool or experience is to empower learners to think in ways that represent a fundamental improvement over traditional practice. The use of technology leads to yet another critical question – How are kids using technology to learn in ways that they couldn’t without it? 

All in all, learning has to be the focus. It’s up to you to determine if it is, in fact, taking place and if not what can be done to ensure that it is. 

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