Conceptualizing Learning Progression
In order to help our learners make progress along the knowledge path into a subject, teachers need to have a clear understanding about the individual ingredients of progress, how they are interrelated and how they can be made accessible for learning.
The idea that learners of all age groups can participate in all the ways of working and creating knowledge in a subject (doing, organizing, explaining, arguing) at an age appropriate level is one of our model’s most central points.
In the same way that students of any age are able to participate in all forms of working in the content subject at different levels of complexity, the language they will use also varies in terms of sophistication. This is illustrates in the Lego analogy: cognitive discourse functions and genres interact at different levels in the process of constructing and communicating knowledge. It shows that, as thinking develops through experience and practice from the concrete to the abstract, learners will be able to process content at an increasingly complex level and communicate their understanding through increasingly sophisticated text types and genres:
Compared to a novice, a more advanced student should:
- know more facts about any given topic
- have a deeper conceptual understanding of the specific subject content
- have better command of subject specific procedures/skills and strategies
Since learning cannot be separated from language, learner progress must be expressed through an individual’s ability to communicate knowledge and demonstrate understanding by being able to:
- extract information from increasingly complex texts in all relevant modes
- use more genres and genre moves
- express a deeper understanding of relevant concepts within those moves
- communicate his/her understanding in a wide variety of subject specific modes (charts, maps, tables, formulas, drawings, etc., using both analogue and digital media)
However, progression can’t only be observed when comparing student production at different levels, but should also be promoted by working on any one particular text production. As teachers, we often accept students’ output as the result of students’ ability at any given time, without being aware that by going over the product several times, and encouraging and guiding students’ work on it, the result can be much improved. A brilliant illustration of this process, at a very simple level, can be found in the video Austin’s Butterfly.
Show me how:
Teresa’s chemistry materials show how an experiment about redox-reactions conducted under increasingly complex conditions can lead to an in-depth understanding of the underlying concepts at three different levels.
This is demonstrated through a growing command of genre at the meso-level (definition) and macro-level (lab-report) and learners` ability to transfer their skills to solve complex tasks.