this is a chronicle of our adventures
in education + business

proof of/for learning

proof of/for learning

When I first started going to live soccer games I couldn’t understand why they didn’t use video replay. So many other sports do. It holds players and teams accountable and helps to ensure impartiality. It’s a lot of responsibility for one pair of eyes to see everything that goes on on such a large field—22 people in 22 different places. Thank goodness there’s only one ball.

Switching gears:

Teachers are now called to be more like coaches than referees, but similar challenges are present.

A teacher can up have to 30+ people in their classroom. Imagine 30+ people in 30+ different “places” when it comes to their learning. That’s a lot of responsibility for one pair of eyes. One person to make judgment calls. One person to provide guidance and feedback. One person to keep 30 accountable and progressing forward.

A study by Peter Laird and Laura Waters of Napier University showed that qualified, experienced football coaches could only recall about 59.2% of the critical events that occurred during 45 minutes of football performance.

Come reporting season, teachers are tasked with accurately recalling the growth of their students in numerous skills, across a variety of disciplines, for months worth of learning. Now that more and more teachers are moving towards personalized, student-driven learning opportunities (yay!), it’s the equivalent of trying to coach 30+ students, each doing their own sport, all at the same time. Who can confidently walk out of their classroom at the end of the year and say, “Yes, I can accurately recall 100% of the critical events that happened for each child for the past year!”

Coach Developer Ronnie Reason states that:

A lack of recall accuracy […] reduces the accuracy of feedback to players.

Technology is a great tool to support and ensure accurate feedback.

Think about the idea of reviewing game tape to reflect and improve on performance. How would having a record of performance be valuable?

  • ATHLETES - footage to understand and visualize how their bodies are moving

  • PUBLIC SPEAKERS - watch themselves to identify distracting mannerisms

  • ACTORS - analyze and reshoot a scene in a different way

  • CHEFS - scribbling on a recipe for what to change next time you make it

Imagine if all of those people listed above sought out a “coach.” How might that person be able to give accurate feedback? If these people had a record or collection of their previous performances, feedback could be better tailored.

When I was teaching, telling a student, “add more details", was not as helpful as pointing out all of the places in their story where they wrote with great detail and then pointing out the sections that were lacking.

When I said, “your presentation was difficult to follow,” that was not as valuable as saying, “Having five different fonts on a page are distracting. This picture here was unrelated to the facts beside it so I was confused.”

Connecting feedback to proof is better for retention, especially if the student can hold onto that proof and reference it later. It also gives students a benchmark: a snapshot of their skills at that time. From that point, they can move forward.

[Students] act as apprentice learners who work with teachers who are master learners
— Will Richardson and Bruce Dixon

The job of teachers as coaches—as master learners—is to make sense of the proof. Having game tapes of your entire career is useless unless you review it, try to make sense of it, and learn from it. This is where students need that other pair of eyes.

As personalized, student-driven learning takes over, there is a greater need for deep, profound reflection. This is how teachers can best support their students: teach them to collect proof of their learning and then teach them to make sense of it. Teach them how to become learners who reflect on what they have done, what they are doing, and where they want to go.

As a master learner, teachers need to not only provide the nitpicking feedback on a granular level, they need to model and teach students how to reflect on the big picture. Be the coaches that look at the whole game. Look at the proof: What trends do you notice that you can point out to the student? What progress? Strengths? Challenges? Teach them to unpack the proof. To dissect it. Connect it. Help them develop a more complete and accurate picture of themselves as learners.


I know there are great master learners out there. If you or someone you know is doing inspiring work with their students, please let me know. I’d love to have a conversation about how teachers can be further supported as they continue to coach their students to mastery.

How are you recording learning and providing feedback?

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