Monday, January 24, 2022

The difference between displaying and documenting learning


In the Assessment section of PYP: Principles into Practice, documenting learning is described in the following way:

Documenting learning is the compilation of the evidence of learning. Documentation can be physical or digital and can be displayed or recorded in a variety of media forms. Documentation of learning is shared with others to make learning visible and apparent.

I was therefore interested to read in Silvia Tolisano and Janet Hale's book A Guide to Documenting Learning that by default documentation is not pedagogical.  They go on to describe how to be considered pedagogical documentation, the action must facilitate learning.   For example a teacher taking photographs of student work is not enough - the photos need to be used in a strategic way to inform students on how they are doing and the progress they are making towards a learning goal.  For example teachers could annotate the photos to help students reflect on their learning or they could share a series of photographs to help students understand their learning growth.

They also describe heutagogical documentation which is learner driven and focuses on self-motivated and self-directed learning.  This documentation can also fuel the motivation to learn and to make decisions about next steps in learning.  The aim here is to support learners to become more independent and self-determined.  The work of Daniel Pink (autonomy, mastery and purpose) also addresses motivation - he defines autonomy as being free from external control or influence, for example not doing something just to receive a grade.  This links in nicely with the PYP emphasis on student agency.  Mastery is also seen as important because it means you have the desire to improve.  Learners who are motivated will naturally investigate, research and apply what they learn to improve their understanding.  Documentation that provides evidence of learning over time can be a way of motivating self-directed learners to pursue mastery.  Finally purpose is important in motivation.  Sharing learning can be very motivating and exciting for students - they are more excited and involved when they are producing content and when connecting with local and global learning communities.

Often when I go to visit schools I see elaborate and beautiful displays in the classrooms and corridors.  Displaying work does make it visible to an audience, however what is displayed may or may not be noticed, and the displays may also not convey students' thinking.  Silvia writes:

Displaying is documenting without a specific purpose or goal being captured during the learning process over time.

However displaying work can be motivating for some students as they know that others see their work and they are sharing their learning with a larger audience.   Silvia challenges us to:

Fight the urge to merely display snapshots of what was done or final products, and convert display items into documentation artefacts by making the process of thinking and learning visible and meaningful.

Photo Credit:  Katrina S on Pixabay 

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