Learning process is anything but linear and visible.
Best learning experiences are often messy and hard, but oh-so-rewarding. For education professionals it is sometimes nice to think about how the learning process is rolling forward like a simple cycle (like Kolb’s), and emphasize the perception and processing, but the reality is far more complex. There are pits, loops and rabbit holes along the way.
The discussion of learning process must include these invisible or intermediate processes of learning, and acknowledge the personal preferences that make learning stick. One size does not fit all.
Our personal preferences for the intermediate processes of learning are the ways we prefer to perceive, choose, store, reflect and retrieve the data and information needed for learning. These preferences result from our previous experiences in life and learning, and they can either help or hinder our academic learning process (Green et al. 2012). Acknowledging the individual preferences and emphasizing the importance of metacognitive skills in learning helps to focus more on these invisible parts of learning process.
Teaching the metacognitive skills could be called invisible teaching, because it requires significant amount of interactions between the teacher and the student – interactions that may or may not relate directly to the learning objectives.
Learning happens everywhere. This must be acknowledged in curriculum design and instructional design processes, because without transfer to personal lives of students the formal learning is quite worthless. (This is obviously not a new idea, non scholae sed vitae has been around for a long time.) Unfortunately, teaching is sometimes seen as a simple act of delivering information. In such learning environments evaluations of learning (or performance) are based only on the tests, exams, essays, worksheets and other ways of demonstrating the mastery of the subject/topic. Grades are handed out to students in the end of term or semester, but what do these grades actually mean?
Invisible learning could be called unvalued leaning, because it is not included in the evaluations conducted in formal education. To be effective, contemporary education must strive “to capture intermediate learning processes in student work,” not just outcomes (Bass & Enyon, 2009, p. 15). One way to broaden the evaluation of learning is to use performance assessments with rubrics, so that students know what they are supposed to demonstrate, and use all their knowledge in the tasks, not just a small, segmented amount of knowledge that belongs to that specific class.
The challenge for contemporary education is to include the invisible learning into formal learning. Learning should always be life-long, life-deep and life-wide. Students have lots of knowledge gained outside of the school systems, and in information societies we cannot – and should not – try to restrict students’ access to information. Visiting websites like wikipedia should be encouraged, with the constant reminder of not taking any information at a face value. Not even what is printed in the textbook. 🙂
Bridging this informal or invisible/unvalued learning to formal education helps students to see their classroom learning more meaningful because it carries personal significance. Emphasizing invisible learning empowers students to engage in self-regulated learning and be more active in building their own, personal knowledge-base.
What is the easiest way for invisible learning to become valued in your class?
Bass, R. and Eynon, B. (Eds.). (2009). The difference that inquiry makes: A collaborative case study of technology and learning, from the Visible Knowledge Project. Academic Commons. Retrieved from http://academiccommons.org/).
Green, J., Liem, G. A. D., Martin, A. J., Colmar, S., Marsh, H. W., & McInerney, D. (2012). Academic motivation, self-concept, engagement, and performance in high school: Key processes from a longitudinal perspective.Journal of adolescence, 35(5), 1111-1122
Invisible learning as a new paradigm or metatheory.