What Have They Learned… About Learning?

There’s a treasure trove of data sitting in your classrooms. It’s currently being stored, but it will be deleted soon, and will be difficult to retrieve. What you will be able to retrieve later will be sketchy and incomplete, and not as valid as if you extract it now.

This data is unbelievably valuable and relevant to the work you are doing at the school. It’s never been available in quite the rich format that it’s been collected, but, again, it’s shelf-life is short and if you don’t act soon you’ll miss its full value.

That data is being stored in the gray matter of your students, your teachers, and your staff. Beyond your classrooms and into the homes of your students is even more data, waiting to be harvested and exceptionally valuable but for a limited time.

While you are required to spend many hours and much energy on standardized testing over the next couple of months (eyes rolled), the data you REALLY want isn’t mandated for you to collect, but you would find great value in it if you did.

Right now, you have students, their parents, teachers, staff, and administration who have spent an entire year engaged in varying degrees of learning during a global pandemic. They are primary sources; eyewitnesses to history. Beyond that, they also have learned a lot about their own learning, their children’s learning, their students’ learning.

Collectively, they’ve learned a lot of things about your students’ learning that aren’t likely to be reflected on the standardized tests.

Students have learned a lot about themselves and their learning that, if not collected will go unexamined and unlikely to be considered in planning for their future learning.

You have one of the richest data mines of metacognition that you’ll probably ever have, and you have it for about… two months.

So, what will you do?

Talk to your students about their learning. You’ll find some sample questions above. You might want to use a Google Form so you can collect all of the answers in a Google Sheet.

Here’s something that could be valuable: Ask parents these questions about their children. Many parents and family members have spent a lot of time with our students this year, many of them more than in a typical year. What if they saw patterns? What if they observed tendencies and habits? We should want to collect that data, yes? Combine the self-reporting with that from the parents. When applicable? Same thing with teachers about their students. Is it a lot for them to do? Maybe, but if you develop your questions together (these are just a place to start), you might find that your teachers want to know these things as well. Planning for next year? This could be the most valuable data you could collect.

Time has been slow at times over the past year. On occasion, it may have felt like it stopped. The time you have left to find out what your people have learned about their learning this year, however, is moving fast. Make time to listen to your students and what you learn will be a great head start to next year, and valuable information on what your students need. ~ Mark Wilson

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