Usually, you only see the end result of a learning process; achieved, or not achieved. Instead, what if we showed the process itself? Keep reading and discover three reasons why visualizing the learning process is a good idea.

Different motives for visualizing

In recent years, people have been more critical of the use of traditional assessments. In particular, the criticism focuses on what an assessment says about a student’s level and to what extent assessments contribute to learning or, on the contrary, get in the way of learning.

These conversations lead to increased attention to John Dewey’s social constructivism. Social constructivism sees the learning process as an active process of knowledge acquisition; knowledge is created and shared with others. Important principles here include the zone of proximal development and stimulating self-regulating ability.

Programmatic assessment is also on the rise and aligns with a constructivist approach of education (Baartman, Van Schilt-Mol & Van der Vleuten, 2020). In programmatic assessment, the focus is on the student’s learning process. Tests are part of the learning process and are used to guide, stimulate and give students insight into their own progress (Peeters, 2019).

To apply social constructivism and/or programmatic testing, it is important to visualize the learning process. We will discuss what this means and why it helps in the following sections.

Visualizing learning

Another word for visualizing is portraying. So when visualizing the learning process, you portray what and how someone is learning. Learning objectives, sub-objectives and success criteria can help with this, as they help students know what they are learning. Feedback also helps visualize learning (Hattie, 2008). In different versions of a document, you can see where and how the student is growing. In this instance, feedback and assessments are aimed at seeing where in the learning process someone is and what next steps are needed. They make the individual steps in the learning process visible, rather than just giving a final grade.

Three reasons why visualizing the learning process is important

There are several reasons why visualizing a learning process is important. Below, we list the three most important ones:

  1. It makes growth visible which is motivating
  2. It helps to understand and remember information
  3. It helps improve feedback and reflection skills

1. It makes growth visible which is motivating

As you have read, growth and progress become visible once you make the learning process visible. This stimulates focus on the process (where you came from and where you want to go) rather than on the end result. Furthermore, it transforms learning from a mere pursuit of good grades to a pursuit of personal development and the acquisition of knowledge and competencies. This shift grants students ownership over their learning experience and fosters intrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation is something to strive for. In fact, several studies have shown a positive reciprocal relationship between intrinsic motivation and learning performance. Motivation not only increased learning and learning performance, but the achieved learning goals also gave students a sense of satisfaction. This feeling in turn motivated them to participate in learning activities again (Margolis & Mccabe, 2006; Schunk et al., 2013). And so a positive virtuous cycle is created. There are also studies showing a positive relationship between intrinsic motivation and task engagement, high quality of learning, sense of competence and reduction of anxiety (Ryan & Deci, 2000; Schunk et al., 2013).

Tree growing as visualization of growth

2. It helps to understand and remember information

Coat rack as visualization of understanding and remembering feedback

A learning process is an abstract concept. By making it visible and visual, you help students understand and remember what they need the new knowledge or skills for. The visible learning process forms, as it were, a coat rack they can hang new information on. A learning process rarely stands alone; it has a place in the bigger picture, such as a learning line. By making both the learning process and the bigger picture visible, it becomes clear to the student what the connections are.

Consider, for example, a spider diagram or radar diagram. In it, you can indicate the skills a student needs to develop in order to practice his future profession. Using various measuring moments, you can see whether and to what extent this person is developing. When the image is supportive of the text, it helps our brain store concepts better. For example, we remember words better when we have seen pictures of them (McBride & Dosher, 2002). Such a spider diagram attracts attention, makes the concept of growth concrete, and helps to display information efficiently. Moreover, you can give students ownership by letting them decide for themselves how they want to develop the skills further. In doing so, they also develop their problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

3. It helps improve feedback and reflection skills

A learning process is an abstract concept. By making it visible and visual, you help students understand and remember what they need the new knowledge or skills for. The visible learning process forms, as it were, a coat rack they can hang new information on. A learning process rarely stands alone; it has a place in the bigger picture, such as a learning line. By making both the learning process and the bigger picture visible, it becomes clear to the student what the connections are.

Consider, for example, a spider diagram or radar diagram. In it, you can indicate the skills a student needs to develop in order to practice his future profession. Using various measuring moments, you can see whether and to what extent this person is developing. When the image is supportive of the text, it helps our brain store concepts better. For example, we remember words better when we have seen pictures of them (McBride & Dosher, 2002). Such a spider diagram attracts attention, makes the concept of growth concrete, and helps to display information efficiently. Moreover, you can give students ownership by letting them decide for themselves how they want to develop the skills further. In doing so, they also develop their problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

Conversation between coach and student

Visualizing learning in business

Perhaps when you think of learning, you quickly think of education. So far, this article has only mentioned students as well. But, learning processes can be found in many more places. And wherever there is a learning process, you can visualize it. This will provide a lot of clarity, ownership, and motivation in any situation.

It means you can also use it very well in business. Because there, too, is learning and growth. There, too, you want to show progress and set goals. A spider diagram, with skills appropriate to the job, gives the employee insight, ownership, and motivation to develop further. And at performance or assessment interviews, both the employee and the manager appreciate being able to see how the employee has grown.

And don’t forget feedback literacy, this is a valuable skill in business too. After all, a first version of a document or product can benefit a lot from a good round of feedback. Moreover, the work environment benefits when colleagues give and receive feedback properly.

Visualize the learning process with Portflow

There are many ways to visualize the learning process. One of them is to use portfolio software, such as Portflow.

A first step to visualizing the learning process is to think about what you want to learn; in other words, setting a goal. In Portflow, you easily set your own goals. It is immediately visible, and you can link a plan to it. You keep track of your progress in the portfolio and evaluate (and reflect) when a goal is achieved. You can select the ‘evidence’ yourself, and you can also decide who gives feedback (when). This way, you build your own ‘coat rack’ and make your growth visible for yourself. You are the owner of your own learning process, as well as making it visible yourself.

Feedback literacy plays a major role in working well with a portfolio. After all, learners depend on the feedback they receive, give, interpret and process. In Portflow in combination with the Learning Management System (LMS), you can use scaffolding to guide learners in developing feedback literacy. This scaffolding is done using a template. In the template, you can provide a structure for the portfolio and also offer tips for giving and receiving feedback, or making an assignment. The goals can be set by yourself, or filled in by the learner. Another option is to only give the goals and let the learner think about what activity would be a good fit. The template gives you complete freedom to decide how much structure you want to offer.

Want to see how it works?

Would you like to see for yourself how Portflow can help you make learning processes visible? Contact us, we are happy to show it to you.

Resources

Baartman, L., Van Schilt-Mol, T., Van der Vleuten, C., (2020) Programmatisch toetsen – voorbeelden en ervaringen uit de praktijk. Amsterdam, Nederland: Boom uitgevers Amsterdam

John Hattie, Leren zichtbaar maken, Bazalt Educatieve uitgaven 2013.

Margolis, H., & Mccabe, P. P. (2006). Improving Self-Efficacy and Motivation: What to Do, What to Say. Intervention in School and Clinic, 41(4), 218–227. doi:10.1177/10534512060410040401

McBride DM, Dosher BA. A comparison of conscious and automatic memory processes for picture and word stimuli: a process dissociation analysis. Consciousness and Cognition 2002;11;423-60.

Kneyber,R., Sluijsmans, D., Devid, V., Wilde López, B. (2022). Formatief handelen. Van instrument naar ontwerp. Phronese, Culemborg.

Lucassen, M. (2018, 28 september) De ‘single point rubric’: meer ruimte voor feedback bij beoordelen Vernieuwenderwijs.

Peeters, W. (2019, 17 juni) Programmatisch toetsen: waarom, wat en hoe? Vernieuwenderwijs.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and NewDirections. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), 54–67. doi:10.1006/ceps.1999.1020

Schunk, D. H., Meece, J. L., & Pintrich, P. R. (2013). Motivation in Education: Theory, Research, and Applications (4th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson Education.