Making Student Learning Visible

Posted: November 25, 2019 12:00:00 AM CST

Dear Folks,

In doing some research for our assessment work and my presentation for the National Learning Community Conference, I ran across this article on integrative knowledge and lifelong learning: https://www.aacu.org/publications-research/periodicals/fostering-integrative-knowledge-and-lifelong-learning.   Building on the work of Polanyi, this brief article discusses the problem of "tacit knowledge" --  "one of the biggest challenges to educating integrative and lifelong learners is the fact that much of the knowledge, skills, and capacities people gain through informal learning is tacit and therefore unconscious and invisible" (Reynolds-Keefer, Peet, Gurin, & Lonn, 2011).  The key ideas that I took away from the article is the realization that because of the way knowledge can be internalized as tacit and intangible, students might have a difficult time with the following:  

  • describing and discussing what they had learned in the course of a semester 
  • articulating why their learning and experiences were valuable to them 
  • and realizing how they might use the knowledge and/or skills they had gained in other settings both in and outside of the classroom  

After doing a bit of reflecting on this, I decided that I could use these last few class meetings to guide students to be more aware and conscious of their own learning accomplishments. For instance, this upcoming week, I am going to have the students spend some time tackling the three points listed above with regards to their FYS experience.  

When I worked with Dr. Hawkinson and Dr. Zoccolillo in the Psychology Learning Community, it was customary to list all the major assignments and activities in our assignment description for the final reflection. In hindsight, I believe the inclusion of this list was a useful strategy for helping students to acknowledge the tacit nature of their learning. Obviously, the students still needed to do the cognitive heavy lifting to think and write about what each assignment/activity represented in terms of learning and experiential gains. Still, the list offered the students a good point of reference to start their reflective work.   

Anyways, I wanted to share these ideas with you because I thought they were cool!  I think if we all keep in mind the challenges posed by "tacit knowledge," we will be better equipped to construct assignments and classroom experiences that make learning more visible.   In turn, I think we will be able to see gains in their reflective work and gains in our own assessment efforts and course evaluations.  

Chimene (Jimena) Burnett, M.A. 

By: Ms. Chimene Burnett

Category: FYLCP Insights