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Learner Sketch Update

We got a great note the other day from Max Roach, a Utah-based educator, and wanted to share it as an example of how some people are using the Learner Sketch Tool with their students.

How are YOU using the tool, or the other resources associated with the Faces of Learning campaign? Share your voice with us . . .


I just used the Learner Sketch tool with my classes and WOW! It was fantastic. The class is 9th-12th grade Learning Strategies, a class where we explore the constructs of the mind and how our minds’ makeup interacts with academic tasks (among other things). This tool’s exportable PDF learning profile is a fantastic way to frame a meaningful conversation about learning outcomes as an expression of our cognitive strengths and weaknesses. -And of course that we all have them! What I like most about this tool is it gives students, parents and teachers specific strategies to overcome difficulties.

I would recommend this tool for any classroom teacher, parent or student. Whether studying English, math, history, etc., every student can benefit from knowing more about how they learn and getting specific study strategies CUSTOM TAILORED to their learning profile. Here is a basic recap of how I used this tool over two class periods.

Day 1:
1. Whole group demonstration and introduction to Faces of Learning website.
2. Students asked to go online and explore website for 5 minutes.
3. Whole group debrief. Prompt: What did you find that might be of some use on this website?
4. Whole group demo of tool on overhead projector. Note: Demonstrate that there are three areas within the sketchbook and that students should consider each statement carefully before choosing where to put it. Say, “Be sure to place statements that represent a weakness for you in the ‘Not Me’ spot at the bottom of your page.”
5. Students asked to log on to website and complete a learner sketch.
6. Students required to download a copy of their learner sketch for themselves and to email it to their parents as well as to me, their learning strategies teacher.
7. Homework, print and read your learner sketch with your parents (if possible). Be prepared for activities and discussions about the document during the next class.

Day 2:
1. Review/ preview major sections of document on whiteboard: Write: “About Your Sketch, My Strengths, Not Me, Explore More, Ideas for Further Exploration.”
2. Prompt students to share what they recall from each of the sections and write a summary of the purpose of each section on the board alongside the section heading.
3. Students will re-read each section, underlining key points and making comments in margins (active reading strategies previously taught) in preparation for a “Think, Pair, Share.”
4. Think Pair Share: Write prompt on board: “Think about what surprised you, what you already know about yourself, and what could be useful to you in each section (I minute silent review of document section). Discuss one section of the document at a time. (4 minutes each section). -Total five minutes per section for each pair of students.
5. Whole group debrief. Prompt students to share with whole group one section at a time: “What did you find interesting About Your Sketch section? Use terms like “useful,” “meaningful,” “thought provoking,” etc. When you get to the “Not Me” section, point out that the format changes to include “strategies that may help.” Prompt students to share any strategies they found particularly useful. Ask, “Did any of the strategies spur your thinking on another strategy you might use to bypass or improve on a weakness?” Continue section-by section debrief through the rest of the document.
6. Close by recapping the importance of knowing how how we learn as a component of making well-informed and most productive decisions about what to do when we face a learning challenge. Recommend that students share some of their thoughts on these activities with parents.

My students reported that they enjoyed these activities because they were online and user-friendly, not too jargon heavy, and offered meaningful strategies. I could also see this tool used as a homework assignment for parents and students together… -That they complete a Learner Sketch themselves and then guide their children through the process and discuss the document with them. With this tool, the possibilities are endless! …And no, I don’t work for Faces of Learning. ;-)


What If Learning — Not Fighting — Were the Focus?

As accusations fly back and forth over the reported DC cheating scandal – the latest in a series of battles between America’s two dominant Edu-Tribes – I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we stopped spending so much time focusing on what is broken or who is to blame, and started focusing instead on how people learn, and how we can create better learning environments for everyone.

This week, as part of an effort to spur such a conversation, a coalition of individuals and organizations is doing just that — envisioning a movement of adults and young people in search of better places to work and learn, and highlighting powerful learning experiences to make a larger statement about how and when transformational learning occurs.

I am proud to be a part of the campaign, which is called Faces of Learning, and which aspires to help people understand we are all effective learners, with differing strengths and challenges. Kim Carter, executive director of the Q.E.D. Foundation, a non-profit organization that is a member of the coalition, explains: “We want to elevate four essential questions that are, alarmingly, almost completely absent from the current national conversation about school improvement: How do people learn? How do I learn? What does the ideal learning environment look like? And how can we create more of them?”

To help provide the answers people need, Faces of Learning is asking people to share personal stories of their most powerful learning experiences; attend and/or organize public events at which people think together about how to improve the local conditions in which people learn; and use a new interactive tool called the Learner Sketch, which invites users to explore their own strengths and challenges among the various mental processes that influence learning. Rather than just categorize the user as a certain “type” of learner, the Learner Sketch feedback actually suggests strategies users can try to help them become even more effective learners. Users can also explore what research is teaching us about how we learn, and find resources that help improve the overall learning conditions for children (and adults).

Ideally, of course, a campaign like this would be unnecessary. And yet, when one looks back at the last 15 months – a period in which school reform has been at the forefront of American life, from “Race to the Top” to Waiting for Superman to the endless coverage of Michelle Rhee or the union fight in Wisconsin – what becomes clear is that we haven’t been having a national debate about learning; we’ve been having a national debate about labor law. And while that issue is important, it is a dangerous stand-in for the true business of public education – helping young people learn how to use their minds well.

What if our efforts were squarely focused on the true goal of a high-quality education, instead of the hidden goal of a well-funded few?

What if each of us could identify our own strengths and weaknesses as a learner?

What if each of us had the chance to discover – and contribute – our full worth and potential to the world?

What if all of us came to both expect and demand high-quality learning environments throughout our lives?

It’s a great and worthy vision. And before any of those things can happen, we all need to work together to see more clearly what powerful learning actually looks like — and requires.

Join our efforts – and share your voice – at www.facesoflearning.net.

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