Mini Lesson 5

Capturing Evidence of Learning


  • What is Evidence of Learning?
  • Examples of ways to Capture Evidence of Learning
  • Why Evidence of Learning makes for a better Learning Journey



So far we have covered a few big picture topics in this Field Guide.

  1. We want you to go on a Learning Journey.
    • A Learning Journey is how we describe your high school career. We want you to explore different topics. Try out different ways to learn. Learn with different people. Learn in a variety of places. We want you to discover who you are as a learner. Explore your strengths. Explore your curiosity. Explore your interests.
    • At the end of your Learning Journey you will be able to Tell A Story of your Journey.
  2. Along the way you will participate in many different Learning Opportunities
    • A Learning Opportunity is anytime you intentionally (or accidentally) put yourself in a position to learn something.
    • A Learning Opportunity could be something like a class at a local high school or college.
    • A Learning Opportunity could be something like deciding to read a book.
    • Even though different types of Learning Opportunities look very different from each other, we can use the Record Tool and its Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How system to capture any Learning Opportunity. (We will go into more details in Mini Lesson 6)

In this mini lesson, we are introducing a new big picture topic.

Evidence of Learning

Evidence of Learning is a little bit like it sounds. It is evidence (or proof) that you learned something. We can define it like this ...

Evidence of Learning is something tangible that is left behind at the end of a Learning Opportunity. It can be used to prove that you learned something during a Learning Opportunity

Let's break this down and give a few examples.

EXAMPLE 1 :: The Community Garden

Let's imagine you decided to participate in a new Learning Opportunity because you wanted to learn more about gardening. You wanted to learn in a hands on way and actually grow some plants. You did a bit of research in your area and discovered that there is a community garden not too far from your house and they have a program for volunteers.

So... from a Who, What, When, Where, Why, How perspective. You will be learning about gardening (horticulture, plant biology, soil science, etc), you will be giving back to your community (volunteering at a community garden), you will be using habits of patience and perseverance (plants don't grow immediately after all), you will be learning alongside other volunteers and learning from the leaders, it will run all year long and you will volunteer about 5 hours a week. You picked this Learning Opportunity because you like to be outside, you like working with your hands, and you want to know more about growing plants, and you will get to take home some of the vegetables and berries you are growing.

It sounds like a great Learning Opportunity

What are the ways that you could Prove that you participated.

After all, it is a Community Garden, they aren't going to give you a grade. They might give you tomatoes though.

How will you be able to show someone else that you volunteered at the Community Garden?

Well .... let's think about what might "naturally" be left behind at the end of this Learning Opportunity.

  • You will probably have some flowers, vegetables, and berries at the end.
  • You will probably have met some new people.
  • You might get some kind of Certificate of Volunteering.
  • You will have some personal memories and experiences.

When we say "what is naturally left behind", we mean ... what is left behind by just participating in the Learning Opportunity without actively adding something else. Let me give a another example to help make this point. When you read a book, what is "naturally" left behind? ...

Not much.

Reading a book doesn't produce anything tangible. It all happens in your head. You read the book and at the end. It is over. Nothing is left behind.

Some types of Learning Opportunities don't "naturally" leave anything behind.

It doesn't make them bad. After all, you learn when reading a book. It can be a wonderful experience on its own. It can be a great way to learn. But the experience of reading a book doesn't really "produce" anything tangible.

That is what we mean by "naturally". Some Learning Opportunities "produce" Evidence of Learning "naturally". Some don't.

Back to our Community Garden example.

At the end of the Community Garden volunteering you will have a few tangible things that could be used as Evidence of Learning. Proof that you actually participated in the Community Garden.

Plants, Flowers, Vegetables, Berries. Those are tangible. But they are also perishable. You can hold them in your hand but it might be hard to store them long term. Unless you captured them in another format. One way to "capture" this type of evidence would be to photograph it. Photos of the results of the garden. Photos of the process of working in the garden can "capture" the Evidence of Learning that occurs "naturally."

Meeting new people. Working side by side with them. Is a great way to learn. They can "prove" that you participated. But working with people doesn't leave behind anything tangible. You can't "store" the people. But you can "capture" their thoughts about working with you. They can write down their experiences of working with you. They could complete a survey about you. They could write an evaluation of you. They could record audio or video. There are a lot of different ways to "capture" other people's experiences of working with you that can be stored longterm.

Sometimes when you do volunteer work they give you a certificate or thank you card or t-shirt. Something tangible that says, in effect, "yes indeed, this person volunteered with us." Something like that is indeed tangible. It can be "captured" with a photograph or scanner.

Your personal memories and experiences are almost always left behind at the end of a Learning Opportunity. But ... those are kept in your head. To "capture" those you would need to write them down or record them with audio or video. Once "captured" they can be "made tangible" and stored long-term.

It is up to you to decide which Evidence of Learning is worth capturing and storing long term. There are no hard and fast rules about what makes sense as Evidence of Learning. You are the creator of Your Story. This Evidence of Learning is part of Telling Your Story. What makes sense as Evidence of Learning for one person might not make as much sense for another person.

Let's run through a few other examples to make sure you have a good understanding of Evidence of Learning.

EXAMPLE 2 :: Reading a Book

Let's take a closer look at "Reading a Book".

While it is trueie that reading a book doesn't naturally leave behind any tangible evidence, it is also true that reading a book is a valuable and worthwhile Learning Experience. Reading a book is a way of plugging yourself into another person's mind. Whether it is fiction or non-fiction the author speaks directly to the reader. It is a form of virtual reality. The written word has been around for thousands of years and it is still one of the most powerful tools of sharing thoughts, ideas, experiences. Consider the fact that movies, radio, and television have not supplanted the written word despite their technological advantages. Reading is very powerful. It can have a place in our Learning Journey. But how do we "capture" Evidence of Learning for reading a book?

First let's think about what is "naturally" left behind.

After reading a book, the thing that is naturally left behind are the thoughts of the reader.

One way to capture the thoughts of the reader is to write them down or record them to audio or video. There is a specific method that can be used to capture and record our thoughts after a Learning Opportunity and that is the Self-Reflection. We will talk about the details of the Self-Reflection in mini lesson 7. For now let's just remember that we can always capture our thoughts by writing them down or recording them in audio or video.

Another method to capture the thoughts of the reader after reading a book is The Interview. You can either conduct an interview with yourself or you can ask someone else to interview you. It could be a friend, a classmate, a parent, a teacher, a librarian, or really anyone that you are comfortable talking to. The interview is way to capture your thoughts and ideas about a book in a more conversational way. If you aren't always comfortable writing, an interview is one way of capturing your thoughts in a less formal way. The interview can be recorded to audio or video or it can be transcribed into text.

A simple way of capturing some evidence about your reading is to keep a reading log. A reading log captures the time, date, and page numbers of your reading. You can record the log onto a piece of paper, in a notebook, in a digital file. The log will be most accurate if you keep it as you are reading ie. once you put the book down, write down the page numbers, date, and time that you just read. A log is a simple tool for capturing evidence. It might not be as introspective and meaningful as a self-reflection or interview but it is better than nothing.

Another strategy for capturing Evidence of Learning for reading a book is to combine it with another type of Learning Experience that does naturally produce evidence.

What if you read the book and then wrote a review of it on Amazon or Good Reads? You are combining "Reading a Book" with another Learning Experience, "Writing a Review". The review will naturally leave behind tangible evidence ie. a written online review and will be able to serve as Evidence of Learning for Reading a Book and for Writing a Review.

What if you read the book and created a short video "trailer" for the book? Again, you are combining "Reading a Book" with another Learning Experience "Creating a Video Trailer for a Book". The video that is produced in "Creating a Video Trailer for a Book" can serve as tangible evidence for both Learning Opportunities.

What if you decided to read the book as a part of a book club? You can have discussions about the book with the book club and at the end you can ask one or more members of the book club to verify your participation or even evaluate your participation in the discussion.

What if you produced a work of art (music, painting, poetry, sculpture, etc) inspired by the book. Again you can use the naturally occurring evidence to represent both the reading of the book and the creation of the artwork.

Perhaps you could create a resource for other people reading the book. A map of places mentioned in the book. A playlist of music mentioned in the book. A character map showing the connections between characters. An annotated listing of "other books you might consider after this one." There are dozens of other ways that you can create something useful for other readers. Again, you are combining two different Learning Opportunities but using the one Evidence of Learning to represent them both.

EXAMPLE 3 :: Taking a Class

What about if you just take a class at a high school or community college? Does it naturally produce Evidence of Learning?

Typically a class in a high school or at a college leaves behing, at minimum, credits and a grade. Those are represented on a Report Card and/or on a Transcript. They might look something like ...

Classname: Business Law | Semester: Fall 2021 | Final Grade: B+ | Credits: 3

That is a form of Evidence of Learning. You can use it to "prove" to someone else that you participated in the Learning Opportunity.

But a Business Law class might also produce a written paper, a case study, a presentation, a group project, or more. Those might be something that you also want to capture and save.

Perhaps you want to record a Self-Reflection at the end of the class because you want to capture and record your thoughts about how the class went, what you are going to take away from the experience, and what you plan on doing next.

That is another form of Evidence of Learning that might make sense to capture with this Learning Opportunity.

So, even though a Learning Opportunity might naturally create a certain type of Evidence of Learning, you are not limited to that. You can capture other things that make sense for you in helping to further your Learning Journey and Telling Your Story.

EXAMPLE 4 :: Watching Videos on YouTube.

YouTube and other video services are full of wonderfully produced, enriching, entertaining, and engaging videos.

You can learn how to fix a tire on your bike or bake a soufflé. You can watch a lecture from a professor at MIT or sit in on a panel of experts on tropical diseases. You can learn about history, science, math, or just about any topic you can think of.

Like reading, videos are a very useful resource that you should consider as part of your Learning Journey. But, like reading, watching videos doesn't naturally create any Evidence of Learning.

So how do we go about capturing Evidence that we learned something while watching YouTube?

For one, we can borrow some ideas from the "Reading a Book" example.

  • Capture out thoughts in a Self-Reflection or Interview
  • Log the time we spend watching videos.
  • Combine Watching Videos with another type of Learning Opportunity that does leave behind natural Evidence of Learning.

What if we made a playlist of related videos on a topic?

What if we wrote a summary of what was talked about in one or more videos?

What if we watched the videos with a friend or two and then had a conversation about what was covered in the videos? That conversation can be recorded or transcribed.

What if we created our own video in response to something that we watched?

What if we fact checked the video by researching and verifying or disproving the topics, ideas, or facts covered in the video.

What if we followed the instructions in a video and made a souffle or fixed our bike tire? Your process can be videotaped or photographed to capture the Evidence of Learning.

There are probably dozens and dozens of ideas of ways to combine other Learning Opportunities with Watching Videos in order to generate natural Evidence of Learning.

Hopefully you can see that there are a lot of ways to capture Evidence of Learning for a Learning Opportunity. Sometimes a Learning Opportunity naturally leaves behind Evidence. Sometimes you might consider adding a Self-Reflection, sometimes you might consider combining two or more Learning Opportunities.

It really is up to you to decide what kind of Evidence of Learning you want to capture. So, before we move on to the next mini lesson, we should talk about Why capturing Evidence of Learning is a good idea.

Why You Should Capture Evidence of Learning

Up to this point we have defined Evidence of Learning as something tangible that is left behind after a Learning Opportunity and can be used to "prove" that you participated in that Learning Opportunity.

We have also run through a few examples of ways you can capture Evidence of Learning.

Now let's talk about Why it is something you should be doing.

You might think that "proving" you participated in a Learning Opportunity is the biggest reason why you should do it. After all, you want to get into college and aren't they going to want to see some proof that you did the things you say you did?

Maybe. They might.

But that isn't the best reason do it.

The best reason is that incorporating Evidence of Learning into your Learning Journey makes for better learning experiences and for a better Story in the end.

Learning something isn't static. You don't learn it and then it is in your brain for all time. That is not the way our brains work.

The process of re-remembering, integrating, and reflecting on an experience is one way of making it have a lasting impact. Human memory is fleeting. We take photos and make photo albums to help us remember events, people, places. We capture events on video so that we can rewatch at some point down the road. We write diaries to help us remember and process our thoughts. We tell stories with each other to refresh and relive memories. We buy mementos, t-shirts, coffee mugs, hats as a way of capturing the experience of a trip or an event.

If you have ever sat around looking at a photo album reminiscing with a friend or relative or asked someone about a knick knack from a trip and suddenly watched their memories come back to them, you have experienced how the memories come flooding in and the stories start flowing. You might recall things you haven't thought of in a long time. You suddenly start integrating old events into the present world. It gives you an opportunity to not only remember but also to reconsider and recalibrate.

Evidence of Learning can work like that, too. It can serve as an external storage mechanism. Your immediate memories of the experience of a Learning Opportunity will soon take a backseat to new experiences. One way of storing those experiences is to leave behind a mental trigger in the form of Evidence of Learning. The Evidence isn't just meant for an external audience as "proof" of your learning, it is also meant as a trigger for your own memories. As a way of helping you integrate the learning you did into your lived experiences.

When it comes time to Tell Your Story. You will be glad that you captured Evidence of Learning along the way.

But there is one more reason. And maybe it is the most important reason.

The process of Capturing Evidence of Learning makes for a better learning experience overall.

The methods that create Evidence of Learning are also very good methods for learning.

Let's examine this idea.

Self-Reflection on learning improves your recall of facts and ideas. It also helps you integrate new learning into your previous knowledge and experiences. Self-Reflection also helps you plan future learning, helps you understand yourself as a learner, helps you recognize and fix mistakes, and helps you identify strengths. All of those are good reasons to Self-Reflect even if don't ever use it to "prove" you did something.

Interviews, feedback, and assessment whether done yourself or with another person also improve recall, help integrate learning, help future planning, help you understand yourself, etc. They also have the added effect of giving you insight from another person. Social learning (learning along with another person) is a very powerful way to learn. You get the benefit of another person's experience, insight, and ideas.

Learning by Creating is a powerful tool for integrating learning. It forces you to be an active learner who has to work with facts, ideas, skills, and habits instead of just contemplating them. It helps the memory by making you review, reconsider, and rethink. It also challenges you to process your learning in a tangible way. Sometimes we think we know something because it seems to live in our heads but when we go to "use" it, we realize that we don't fully know it. Learning by Creating can be a form of teaching. When you write or speak words, create graphics, edit video, make art you are forced to consider your audience and figure out ways to communicate to that audience. That is a lot like teaching. Ask any teacher, nobody learns more than the teacher. You really have to know something to be able to effectively teach it.

Even the process of thinking about how to structure a Learning Opportunity in order to Capture Evidence of Learning forces you to think deeper about your Learning Opportunities and be even more intentional about your Learning Journey. It might sound like more work and no reward but truthfully it might be one of the most powerful ideas we have at

So as you go off on your Learning Journey make some plans about what you will be leaving behind to represent your journey. It is bit like remembering to bring your camera on vacation.

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