Andrea Ferrero, Co-Founder, Pockets Change

Ease First Day Jitters: Kick Off the Year with Learning Profiles

This week we have another guest blog post from Andrea Ferrero the co-founder of Pockets Change.

Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.” It’s a strong statement from one of my education heroes, Rita Pierson. She understood deeply what many of us do, that relationship building is crucial for powerful learning to happen. As we head back to school, our kids are navigating new routines, new subjects, and new friendships. We can ease back to school blues and first day jitters with ice-breakers and get to know you games, but these activities also present a unique opportunity to begin building learning profiles with our students.

Teacher2Teacher "DNA" Exercise

The Benefits of Learning Profiles

Learning profiles give us the chance to build deeper relationships and support students in knowing themselves as learners. They have been gaining more attention as part of the personalized learning movement. Although the buzz is new, the practice of getting to know our students and using that knowledge to create relevant and meaningful learning experiences that empower students is tried and true.

When we coach and support our students in intentional and thoughtful reflection about themselves as learners, they begin to take deeper ownership of their learning process and outcomes.

Learning profiles in action:

  • Promote conversations about learning as an ongoing and active process
  • Give a nuanced view of each learner’s tendencies, interests, strengths, values, and challenges
  • Empower students to drive their own learning
  • Build stronger learning communities focused on relationships
  • Celebrate students where they are and where they are headed

What Do Learning Profiles Look Like?

Learning profiles can include a variety of resources, from simple questionnaires asking about how students like to work (sit, stand, lie on the floor) to more comprehensive portfolios documenting student goals and charting their progress through work samples. Regardless of their format, the items within the profile should support students in documenting, examining, and reflecting on themselves as a learner. Check out these activities for learning profile ideas for the year ahead!

Learning Preferences and Interest Inventories

Capture how students feel they learn best as well as what topics and concepts are most intriguing to them. These inventories can be completed using digital forms, paper and pencil, and even partner or group conversations. One of my favorite ways to extend the conversation on interest inventories is to examine class trends as part of math.

Personality Tests

Offer an array of creative and fun ways for your students to look at their personal tendencies. Personality tests range widely from quick activities where things such as your favorite shape highlight character adjectives, to more robust research-based indicators. Three of my favorite free assessments are the Multiple Intelligences Self-Assessment from Edutopia, the How to Fascinate® Quiz from Sally Hogshead, and 16Personalities, which extends on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

Goal Setting, Tracking, and Reflection Templates

Provide a cornerstone for student-led progress monitoring. These templates may include space for basic demographic info (birthday, photo, family language preference), discoveries made by the student about who they are as a learner, personal goals, academic goals, test scores, student selected work samples, as well as anecdotes written by the student about their accomplishments, challenges, and experimentation with learning strategies.

Learner Profile Template

Creating Learner Maps

One often overlooked element of a strong learning profile is a student led examination of how  personal relationships support learning. Students are not often asked who helps them and how that help best supports their learning needs. Learner maps can fill this gap and empower students to actively describe and address their needs within the learning environment.


Expanding Our Maps and Minds  

Learner maps are equal parts mind map, infographic, and self-reflection. They are individual, messy, and awesome tools. Students may use icons, shapes such as arrows, and illustrations to visually represent their learning environment and the people, tools, and places that are a part of it.

Student Led Goal Setting

Maps are a strong place for students to consider personal and academic goals and how their environment is supporting those goals. Through the creation and discussion of their map students can examine which tools they’re using passively to consume information and which they’re using actively to share or construct understanding.

Learner Map from AlwaysComputing
(Credit @AlwaysComputing)

Student Led Progress Monitoring

Analyzing and discussing their maps students can be supported in taking agency and making adjustments within their learning environment. When students are empowered as change agents we’ll see the maps become more dynamic over time. The two maps below represent one student’s progress over time. We can see his learning relationships at school become two-way paths and we see the emergence of new tools selected to deepen math and reading skills.

First Learner Map from Infinity Learn

Second Learner Map from Infinity Learn
(Credit Infity Learn)

Supporting Student Accessibility & Growth

As your learning profiles take shape over the year they may give you insight into what supports your students need to access classroom content and grow as a learner. These supports could include paper-based materials, digital tools, or a combination of both.

If you find that you have a student that works better with digital resources, there’s no need to get overwhelmed. You can use tools like Snapverter to easily convert documents into digital formats. Now you can take that a step further and integrate software like Read&Write into the document, providing your students with accessibility tools at the click of a button.

It’s a brand new year! Each of the small steps we take to get to know our students also provides an opportunity to personalize their learning. For more ways to deepen learning through students’ interests and abilities check out Access, Engage & Express: How to Personalize Learning Using the UDL Lens webinar.

Access, Engage and Express webinar


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