Our Visible Learning (VL) journey began late in 2017 when we entered into a three-year professional learning process to make learning visible across our school. Our aim was to continually improve learning outcomes and have higher progress for all students. Visible Learning has been implemented with the purpose to maximise student and teacher learning and work towards developing a shared understanding of a language of learning.
The Deciding Factor
Prior to embarking on the Visible Learning journey, there was a wide variety of programs running across the school. These programs were not always connected to our overarching goals and it was clear from a review of evidence, gathered from an external review process with our Corwin partners and through our own evidence gathering processes, that there was a lack of understanding of current and effective pedagogies to maximise student learning.
All staff participated in the Visible Learning Foundation Day workshop, which provided important background to the research of what works best in schools for improving student achievement. As a result of an evidence gathering process over a period of three months, it became apparent that both teachers and students had varied understandings of the characteristics and dispositions of effective learners. We wanted to develop a shared language of effective learners i.e. clearly identifying learning dispositions we wanted our learners to be able to articulate and use.
Evidence Informed Implementation
We participated in a School Capability Assessment (SCA), an evaluation visit conducted by the Corwin team, which provided immense insight into the school’s current perceived practices verses actual reality. The SCA report along with evidence gathered by the Leadership Team was analysed to inform the design of the first VL Action Plan, a process undertaken by the Leadership Team during another day with a Corwin VL consultant.
Our evidence gathering and analysis informed our key focus areas. These included:
1. Developing a shared language of learning across the school (Learner Dispositions).
2. Developing students’ understanding of assessment and results (Effective Feedback).
3. Using data to inform planning (Moderation).
It became evident that the school’s priorities needed immediate refinement to avoid initiative fatigue. This decision prompted the re-design of a whole school site improvement plan, with VL in the centre, emphasising the focus on developing learner capability as our core purpose.
As we began implementation, we recognised we had been too ambitious in our focus areas. This led to the creation of teacher Professional Learning Communities (PLC) for each area of focus, providing opportunities for further research and understanding aligning the whole school focus in one area, developing student capability to become effective learners.
The second stage was to ensure Learning Design (teacher planning and delivery) became an embodiment of learning in reality, whereby students were encouraged to be more active with their learning, understanding what they were learning and the purpose of their learning.
Using the evidence gathered from a variety of methods, we developed our aspiration. The aspiration has been kept alive through scheduled walkthroughs, a PLC model, Impact Coach meetings and analysis of data, as well as the first topic of our agenda at weekly leadership meetings.
Apart from developing and publishing our Site Improvement Plan, the Learner Dispositions were the first visible sign in classrooms that we were on a new learning journey, as a whole school. Although a lengthy process, it was really rewarding. We made time to speak with students and understand their idea of what a good learner is. This meant that the students and community knew that their opinion mattered and that we valued their choice and voice in how the school operated.
Learning Intentions & Success Criteria:
To develop assessment capable learners, teachers needed to first know what students would learn and what success would look like. Teacher clarity was paramount as a building block to building assessment capable learners. Learning intentions and success criteria are now visible for all students across the school.
Key milestones in our journey was the willingness of teachers to make pedagogical changes and shift in their practice. There is evidence of a deeper understanding and belief from staff that they are accountable for knowing the impact they have on outcomes and growth for all students. This movement from teacher perception to seeking evidence of their impact has been attributed to robust questioning and analysis of quality data and student voice. It has also been refreshing to shift the focus of staff meetings to professional dialogue around student learning and measurable growth.
We also have a large proportion of teachers working with ICT to allow students constant access to success criteria, as well as providing pertinent and timely feedback on learning tasks. A whole school data management system has made individual data and assessment information more visible to stakeholders.
Moving from anecdotal evidence to hard evidence gathering was difficult to begin with and some staff found openly sharing data initially confronting, but led to the co-creation and shared understanding of expected standards of student work across the school.
Another challenge was capturing student progressions and how it could be measured, monitored and tracked on a continual basis. To overcome this, a whole school data gathering process and the use of offline and online platform was used. This ensured data was captured electronically and accessible by stakeholders and not just classroom teachers.
Leadership challenges included making time to monitor change and ensure there were processes embedded and communicated clearly to staff to build sustainable practice. This was overcome with allocated time on the timetable to focus on the implementation process for teachers, providing opportunities for teacher collaboration and support from the Impact Coaches to understand what changes may be needed in practice.
Overall, the biggest challenge was shifting the thinking and daily practices of staff, recognising we too were learners and that we were part of a collaborative process of implementing practices that would help all students progress and become successful learners. Creating an environment where people and practices can be challenged using effective feedback in a safe learning environment was imperative to moving forward.
Impact of the Professional Learning Process: The Year 2 Teacher Mindframes Surveys undertaken throughout the process indicated that there had been a significant shift in teachers focusing more on dialogue than monologue within classrooms. Student discussion and collaborative learning is seen as a valuable part of learning and this has led to a significant reduction in student disengagement.
Our evidence tells us that we now also have a higher degree of collaboration and trust amongst colleagues as teachers are working across year levels moderating work and creating agreed criterion. Teachers are more willing to share practices and opening up their classrooms to allow for lesson observations and peer feedback. Time is allocated to analyse, share and use data amongst staff. This has helped create a culture of transparency and professional dialogue about learner progress and high achievement. Visible Learning is now also aligned with our Learning, Design and Moderation process requirements from State initiatives and other key priorities as we create a culture of continual evaluation and improvement so all may progress.
More importantly, our learners are clear about what they are learning, what success looks like, and how to be an effective learner, using the learner dispositions when learning becomes challenging.
Intentionality is key. As a site, we found that once a timeline of targets was established, the implementation was more likely to happen as priorities had been established and planned. It was also important to communicate that Visible Learning is not a program that you implement; it is a philosophy and culture of learning that it is imperative to continually focus and communicate as a whole community to ensure a clear focus of improving student outcomes and to build visible learners.
Where We Are Now:
1. Created a deliberate professional learning structure where data, evidence and information can be shared and discussed as all teachers take shared responsibility for improving student outcomes.
2. Developing data literacy for all teachers and learners.
3. Unpacking and embedding effective learning intentions and success criteria thus ensuring teacher clarity for all learners.
4. Keeping a focus on learning through PLC’s, relevant coherent professional learning, continued evidence gathering through Walkthroughs and quality feedback.
The Journey Continues:
The improvements that have been made on maximising student learning over the past year has been significant. We will continue professional learning in Visible Learning to deepen our knowledge and understanding of the practices that work best to develop assessment capable learners and effective use of evidence to inform practice. Staff are committed to exhibiting exemplary practice and deepen implementation of whole school aligned systems and processes. We know now we are making, and can make, a difference to the progress and achievement for ALL students, because our evidence tells us so.