How to Make the Learner Profile Meaningful

Let me ask you a question. What data do you collect?  How much of that data is used to inform teaching and to drive learning? Too often I see beautiful learner profiles that house enormous amounts of data about who the learner is and who the learner wants to become, but that data is not an integral part of the daily teaching and learning conversation.  

Learner profiles should be rich with data that is accessible, flexible and most importantly, owned and utilized by the learner to guide daily learning. Aspirationally, this is what educators strive to make happen, but somewhere along the line the profile becomes more of a checklist of completion rather than a tool that is necessary for learning much like the necessity of paper, pencil and technology have become over time.

Here is some simple advice to streamline your learner profile and help make this a basic need and driving force of learning.

  • Define what you value for your learners.  What skills and dispositions are at the core of the learner’s motivation to engage on a daily basis? Define these, communicate these, practice these and have learners self-reflect on these. Once they become internalized, learners will start to identify which of their personal dispositions will support their learning and which ones are still in development that may be barriers at the moment.
  • Identify strengths that the student currently sees in themselves. Reflect daily on what new strengths the students are developing as they grow as learners. Add this to their learner profile. Don’t just wait until the strength is fully developed. Start having students identify when they realize a new skill that is being developed and start to acknowledge it.  When beginning a learning experience, have students identify which of their personal strengths they will leverage to reach their goal.
  • Build the profile over time. This is not about completion, this is about utilization!  Find the things that are meaningful for you to inform teaching and find things that are key elements for learners. Add them to the learner profile when they will be acted upon to inform teaching and to drive learning. This might mean that the elements of each learner’s profile is a bit different. For learners that have perseverance as a barrier, add a grit scale reflection to help them track, monitor and plan around these barriers. If a learner is selecting a Passion Project, include interest surveys to help them learn more about what drives them personally. If you are trying to develop teamwork, ask students to compare their profiles to others in their group to identify the collective strengths and areas where there may be gaps.

The possibilities are endless when the learner profile is created, reflected upon and utilized daily to inform teaching and drive learning. What part of the profile will you use today to inform teaching and engage students to drive their own learning?

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