Looking Closely at Children

This cluster addresses listening, documentation, reflection, and communicating with with others — the foundation of professional growth. Without taking on studies like these we could remain circling around and around in our current ways.
five young children squatting down together to look down into a storm drain
What’s down there? It’s a mirror!

Writing Learning Stories

Learning Stories change lives. A Learning Story shows everyone — the child, the group, the educators, the families, and outsiders — what is going on in school for this lovely child. The stories, like tales around the campfire, share the fundamental joy of being human. All learning has a natural flow — passages, I call them, which I share on The Learning Frame page. I have found Learning Stories that attend to those passages to be profound agents of transformation for all involved. In the College Teaching cluster is an example of Learning Stories and The Learning Frame applied to adults in first year General Chemistry, Making Learning Visible page.

Examples of Learning Stories

The most popular page on this site offers examples of Learning Stories for you to download, discuss and offer to others in order to spread ever more widely the practice of pedagogical narration following the lead of Margaret Carr and Wendy Lee in New Zealand/Aotearoa Exemplars Kei Tua o te Pae.

The Learning Frame

A one page outline to guide the facilitation of learning — the deep stuff . A chart depicts how learning is facilitated in different ways according to the passage, or stage, of a group of learners. If you are visiting here, you already are well along in your professional development, so you might be curious what an overview of the complexity looks like. The Learning Frame represents the structure for openness from the perspective of the leader or facilitator for the benefit of the learning group; it’s also an operational definition of transformative learning. Once I understood these relationships, my work as an educator changed. Instead of rolling the rock uphill, I nudge the rock where it naturally wants to fall.

Core Item Portfolios

Forced into assessment? Most assessment is a pain, most cumulative records are incoherent dump heaps, and most checklists and rating scales are unrelated to a child’s heart and soul. An alternative may be to try this uniquely specific way to create a lasting, reflective record of the key essentials for educators and parents to attend to and celebrate in each child. Here is a way to build over time a reflective record to review every six months or so to see change and emergence in a little ceremony of celebration for a unique child. Core Item Portfolios are an answer to: “How do I know …my child is learning? …my child is ready? … this school is the right place for my child?”

Indicator Checklists

Here are four check-off sheets to train the eye to notice key abilities as soon as they arise. The children are not being evaluated with this kind of checklist: it’s for the teacher to learn. The educator’s attention is tuned by the nagging presence of items that are unchecked. Over two years, the checklists sensitize one to be alert for emerging competence. After all, sensitivity to emergence lies at the heart of pedagogy.

Children’s Conversations

Often I fail to listen to children talking to each other. It can be hard to hear what they are saying, and I really don’t want to interrupt. I wondered what I could learn if I examined what I was missing. Are conversations with peers important to the children? What can we learn from them?

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