Friday, 22 November 2013

Learning progressions or trajectories

Lately I have been reflecting on this word or really concept, learning trajectories or progressions. I first came upon the word when doing research for my thesis. We often have seen these before. Many teachers may be familiar with the ESL stages, first steps, Fosnot and Dolk's landscapes of learning, but yet when I say this word many of my colleagues kind of stare at me blankly as if I had two heads. This got me thinking, maybe I should just blog about it.

What are learning trajectories?

A learning trajectory is just want is said, a trajectory or pathway that students take to learning.  This pathway can take many different pathways and is often not linear.

Why is this important?

I think that as educators we have to consider learning trajectories in our planning and in our assessment.  They help us create questions and next steps. They also can help you plan mind on activities, problems for students to work with and help you anticipate problems that may arise in the lesson.  If your into Covey, it's really beginning with the end in mind.  It allows you as an educator to see the different pathways that students may take in reaching the end goal.

How do I use trajectories?

As I mentioned above, trajectories can be used for a variety of purposes.  I like to use them for three purposes:1) anticipation, 2) questioning, and 3) assessment, both for, as, and of learning.  

1) Anticipation: anticipation is an important part of planning and unit or lesson. It allows me to see where my students may have problems, which in turn lets me ask critical questions to move them along the trajectory. By understanding the stages of development I can see the possible potential learning for my students

2) questioning:  Questioning continues to be an important part of teaching. Often though, and I am guilty of this too, we find our selves asking questions just to reassure us that the learning is happening and not to promote further discussion or learning.  By having a trajectory we can ask critical questions in the moment. It allows us to see where a student is and where they possibly can go.  Without it we are more reactive to the students learning instead of being proactive. 

3) Assessment: by having a trajectory I have done my assessment. It is right in the trajectory. All of my learning goals laid out, all my next steps and big ideas. Everything is in a learning trajectory. Often I have one for each students and I make my notes right then and there, no need for rubrics, tests, checklists. A trajectory has all of this included.

How do we find them/ create them?

When I first started using trajectories for learning,me often used the ones that were already made, why reinvent the wheel if it's already done. But the more that I observed student learning the more that I saw how stud penny's developed learning.  To create it, just think about the most basic step or big idea that a student would use. Then think of the next step.  As you work through a problem make notes and the next time it will become easier.  If you really have time, read the research as it will help you.

As I mentioned above, there are many different learning trajectories out there. I know for math I often use the work of Fosnot and Dolk and their landscape of learning. John van de walle has many interesting trajectories in his book, elementary and middle school mathematics.

As I finish my thoughts here, just wonder how many of you use trajectories and if so for what purpose?