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Aurora Institute

Learner-Centered Tip of the Week: Questions to Help Build Transparency

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Courtney Belolan

Issue(s): Issues in Practice, Rethink Instruction

TransparencyThis post originally appeared on Courtney Belolan’s website on November 30, 2015. Belolan is the instructional coach for RSU2 in Maine.

Transparency is a key component of a learner-centered classroom. Being completely clear and open about what students are learning, what they have to do to show they have learned it, and where they are in their learning gives them the map and builds the capacity to direct their own learning.

These are questions I use to reflect on and build transparency of learning in a classroom:

  1. What learning targets are we working on?
  2. How does this task relate to the learning targets?
  3. How will I know when I have met this target?
  4. What comes next in my learning? Within the target or after the target?
  5. How does this learning connect to other learning?

Teachers and students should all be able to answer these questions in a learner-centered environment. There is no one way to address any of these questions, and teachers will do it differently depending on their style and personality. There are some common characteristics of all transparent classrooms, however. First, there is a good amount of visual evidence addressing these questions. Targets are posted, tasks are labeled, success criteria are provided, and students track their progress. Second, teachers refer to these questions and answer them, both directly and indirectly, frequently. At the start of class the teacher states the current target or topic. They connect it back to prior learning, quickly. These teachers refer to the visual evidence and supports regularly. In this post for CompetencyWorks, I talk about different ways to be transparent and start to support students in using the map, once they have it. What other ways can we answer these questions?

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Courtney Belolan works at RSU 2 in Maine where she supports K-12 teachers with performance-based, individualized learning. Courtney works closely with teams and teachers as a coach, and with the school and district leadership teams as an instructional strategist. Courtney has worked as a 6-12 literacy and instructional coach, a middle level ELA teacher, an environmental educator, and a digital literacy coach. Her core beliefs include the idea that the best education is one centered on student passions and rooted in interdisciplinary applications, and that enjoying learning is just as important as the learning itself.