Making Visible

A recent workshop on inquiry approaches to teaching and learning surfaced a lot of questions about the visibility of the learning process. Some of the questions that emerged from the inquiry were,

  • How do we know our students are learning?
  • What might we do to create experiences to facilitate learning?
  • What might we do to create environments that make learning happen?
  • How is it visible to both the student and the teacher?

Although some of the questions may seem obvious, we recognize that in order to be leaders of learning, we have to deeply understand the learning process, elaborate upon it, and become flexible problem solvers at it. Hattie’s Visible Learning for Teachers (2012) explains, “The greatest effects on student learning occur when teachers become learners of their own teaching, and when students become their own teachers.”

Making Visible the Student Learning Process

We can’t see how brains are working to make connections, to create roots and branching out into conceptual understandings, skills competencies, and the development of dispositions. If we don’t figure out ways to make these processes visible to us through instruction and assessment, we’re whistling against the wind: we don’t hear the melody, we cannot hope to address the missing notes and progression of the whole song.

A few of the workshop participants’ thoughts on making process visible were:

  • How do all teachers gain an overview of learning when there are some documented thinking on the classroom walls, and other documented thinking contained in online repositories like Google drive folders and a portfolio platform? What processes might we use to create connections between blended worlds of our thoughts?
  • How do we make the processes visible to the students if we don’t have enough walls to display inquiry for all our classes? Is this a space problem, a materials/resource problem, a process problem?
  • Questions empower students. What if we all made questioning a priority? What might consistently valuing the asking of questions do to help students place their curiosity at the center of learning?
Five year olds’ questions today.

The Emerging Picture

We are beginning to see the idea that constructivism is not a set of principles of teaching but a way of knowing and understanding. Hattie (2012, 24-25) further explains this distinction using experiential learning:

Immediacy of the experience and impact on future experiences

The teacher has planned for the experiences, knowledge and choices during the experience to cross boundaries across contexts.

Challenges and goals are specific

The learner is very clear about what they need to do to achieve the goal. The teacher has architected the situation to nurture a commitment to the goal.

Feedback is increased in both amount and quality

Uncertain situations or open ended problems require feedback for the problem solver, and the feedback needs to be aligned to the instructional purposes and learning targets. Success criteria must be clearly embedded in the feedback.

The teacher is flexible and agile in adjusting instruction to the emerging situation

As learning progresses, the teacher is sharply aware of each learner’s experiences and trajectory and adjusts his or her facilitation to the learner.

Another takeaway we might add after our deep dive into learning is the authenticity of the inquiry approach. Like the Outward Bound or Adventure experiences that Hattie uses in his book, we recognise that as our students approach open or free inquiry, their learning approaches closest to the ways we learn, work and live.


Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers; Maximizing impact on learning. London: Routledge.

Photo credit
Rock climbing boy by © Meinzahn via Dreamstime. Used with permission.






Author: alavina

Cognitive Coach and author. I simplify personal power so you can use mental resources and find pathways to your goals, be more productive and feel in control every day.

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