Visible Learners focuses on how we can make deep learning experiences visible for high school students and adult learners. It is inspired by the Reggio Emilia pedagogy of listening and relationships, and grounded in the philosophy of children as capable and powerful, rather than unskilled and passive. The two key principles are group learning and documentation. When combined, these two practices make learning visible. The following outline summarises the key practices from the book:

Group Learning

Group learning experiences enable students to problem-solve, create, encounter new perspectives, and build collective understanding.

Teachers can facilitate powerful group learning by:

• Designing tasks that are group-worthy and focus on meaningful topics. In project-based learning this is often expressed through an ungoogleable, intriguing, open-ended, driving question, which frames a collaborative task.
• Creating consciousness of effective group work dynamics by engaging students in conversations about effective ways to ask for and give help; the importance of body language; and strategies for helping everyone to feel included.
• Facilitating conversations that deepen learning by using tools such as protocols (to establish safe contexts), thinking routines (to deepen thinking), rubrics (to guide critique), and norms (to create explicit expectations).
• Carefully forming small groups by evaluating learners’ needs, strengths and interests, and incorporating their input.
• Deliberately choreographing movement between individual learning, small-group learning, and whole-class learning. David Thornburg’s metaphors of campfires, watering holes and caves for the use of learning spaces are helpful.
• Extending learning with technology through the use of learning management systems, social media, and blogging, to open up group conversations beyond the classroom walls.


The core of documentation is observing. It involves, “teachers and learners observing, recording, interpreting, and sharing, via a variety of media the processes and products of learning in order to deepen and extend the learning” (Krechevsky, et. al., 2013, p.59). When teachers stop and notice what students are saying or doing, they hone their capacity to recognise and respond in more informed ways. Reggio educators refer to documentation as “visible listening.”

In classrooms that make learning visible, the practice of documentation has several distinct features:

• It is guided by a specific question about the learning process and this question determines how, what, and when to document.
• It engages teachers and students in collectively analysing, interpreting, and evaluating learning.
• It uses multiple media to create tangible artifacts, which provide new vantage points on learning.
• It is selectively shared with audiences to provoke new understandings.
• It shapes the design of future contexts for learning.

Students develop greater attentiveness to the value of remembering pivotal experiences when recording them is part of the classroom culture. Involving students in the documentation process enables them to identify moments they want to remember. When teachers look at documentation with their students, teachers and students can gain new insights that help inform future learning and the result is empowered students.

A strategy for commencing the practice of documentation is to simply notice moments when things are going poorly or well and step back to closely observe. Other suitable practices to commence documentation mentioned in the book include:

• Starting a routine of sharing a short video clip of documentation at the beginning of class or staff meetings.
• Taking a photograph of an especially powerful learning moment to revisit with students.
• Jotting down a provocative or insightful quote from a student and sharing it with the class or writing it directly onto a laminated speech bubble.
• Asking students to do the above (perhaps by rotating the role of student journalist within the class).


Educators trying to create compelling learning experiences confront the daunting challenge of content coverage requirements and expectations of teaching to the test. Students and their thinking are often invisible as the only representations of learning made public are marks and rankings. However, quantification is not the only way to share evidence of learning. Qualitative forms of sharing evidence like student work, photographs, and video are powerful ways to provide a more complete picture. Reggio educators and Project Zero researchers claim that learning is an act of identity and that children are citizens of today, not just tomorrow. It is important that we take inspirational approaches, such as Reggio Emilia and scale them into new contexts.

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