February 25, 2019
While next-generation assessments and instructional data can help educators gain a deeper understanding of students, the sheer amount of information available can prove challenging. As I discussed in a prior post, educational technologies can amplify the impact of proven formative assessment strategies. But in doing so, educators must often navigate various platforms and other sources of student information that, in many cases, do not seamlessly align or integrate together.
So how can we make sense of all this information about our students’ abilities and interests?
Enter the concept of “learner profiles.” In general, a learner profile provides a practical way for educators to make use of assessment results, student interest data, and other relevant information. Although they can come in many forms, effective profiles have two main characteristics: they are coherent and actionable. If the information available in the profile is unclear or at times contradictory, it leads to confusion. And if the learner profile does not lead to action regarding changes in instructional practices to further personalize instruction, then a key rationale for the profile is lost.
Many educators and schools that make use of learner profiles are also focusing on including students in their development and revision. Including students throughout the process fosters agency and ownership of the learning since they have a clear say in their strengths, interests, goals, and steps needed to improve certain skills and academic competencies. Several edtech products and platforms are also aiming to simplify the process for teachers so that accessing actionable information in a student’s’ learner profile is as timely and seamless as possible.
Below are key resources, practical examples, and questions to consider when creating learner profiles.
"If we really believe that teaching is about the student, then it sure would help to actually get to know the students in deeper ways."
In this EdWeek article, the author provides specific examples from schools around the country regarding ways that educators are gaining valuable insights about students’ skills, backgrounds, and interests through learner profiles. She also explores how, as opposed to traditional data meetings or interest surveys, learner profiles go a step further as they can foster personalized, student-centered pathways toward student-selected goals.
Learning Profile Grid (ReSchool Colorado)
This tool developed by ReSchool Colorado provides practical resources, strategies, and guidelines to help educators build personalized learning profiles across age spans.
Otus is an example of a new edtech platform that aims to provide teachers with a holistic view of student performance by streamlining student data, teacher feedback, and student learning artifacts from various sources.
More to Explore
This brief survey helps students identify their character strengths.
An interactive tool to help students explore their strengths and challenge areas as a learner.
A platform that helps students build awareness of their strengths and interests, learn about possible career pathways, and solve real-world problems through collaborative projects.
This profile describes the broad range of skills and dispositions that IB schools aim to help students develop throughout their educational experience.
CMS Learns (Visual)
This profile outlines the competencies identified by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District (NC) as essential for all student to develop to be successful citizens.
Learner competencies developed by the Kettering City School District in Ohio.
This document provides guidance to educators and student in Vermont regarding the development and refinement of Personalized Learning plans.
Learner Profile Prototype Examples
Below are learner profile prototypes developed by educators at Bristol Warren Regional School District and Propel Schools. Instead of using a ready-made platform for learner profiles, they were tasked with brainstorming what information would be most helpful in that profile and how it could be built leveraging existing tools available in their schools. (Ex. Google Sites, Adobe Spark, Jumprope)
Liz Johnson, Social Studies Teacher at Mt. Hope High School.
Susan Castigliego, Grade 3 Teacher at Hugh Cole Elementary School
Kelly Brum and Renee McDougall, Grade 2 Teachers at Rockwell Elementary School
Learner Profile Sketch (Image Above)
Questions to Consider
When creating and implementing learner profiles, consider the following:
- What type of data / learning artifacts are available? Chances are, you already have access to various forms of assessment data and student work samples. Start here, there is no need to reinvent the wheel...
- What types of visualizations would be most helpful from the educator viewpoint? Adding more sets of data and information is not helpful to teachers if it is not clear and actionable. Consider how much is already on a teacher’s plate and ask them for ideas on the best way to visualize the information and streamline the workflow.
- Who would have access to what information? Since learner profiles will include various types of data from different sources, it is important to map out who has access to what information. Some considerations will have to do with streamlining the workflow and enabling access for families to information they should see. But also be mindful of student data protection policies and regulations as some data should only be shared with specific personnel within a school.
- What role would students have in the development and use of the profile? Families? They are key stakeholders in the process that have valuable insight to share regarding the development, implementation, and refinement of learner profiles. It is key to identify entry points for them in the process.
Although the concept of Learner Profiles is gaining traction, many schools are still at the early stages of implementing these types of systems and practices. As personalized instructional practices continue to strengthen, and educational technologies enable more seamless data use and integration across platforms, we will see learner profiles emerge as a valuable strategy to include various stakeholders in the learning process and help ensure that all students have the ability to thrive in our schools.
Join Tom at the upcoming EdTechTeacher Innovation in Education event in Woodstock, Vermont April 3rd-4th. Learn more about his Deeper Learning strand and other event programming here.