What Is Learning Progression?

Learning Progression

Learning progression refers to the sequential development of knowledge, skills, and understanding in a particular subject area or domain over time. It is a framework that describes the pathway or trajectory of learning, outlining how students' understanding and abilities evolve from simple to more complex levels as they progress through their education.

Key Aspects of Learning Progression

1. Sequential Development: Learning progression emphasizes the idea that learning is a gradual, cumulative process that builds upon prior knowledge and experiences. Each stage of the progression represents a more sophisticated level of understanding or skill acquisition.

2. Coherent Framework: Learning progressions provide a coherent framework that connects individual learning objectives or standards to a larger, more comprehensive understanding of the subject matter. They help educators and students see the "big picture" of learning and how individual concepts and skills fit together.

3. Evidence-Based: Learning progressions are developed based on research and evidence about how students typically learn and develop understanding in a particular subject area. They are informed by cognitive science, educational psychology, and disciplinary expertise.

4. Learner-Centered: Learning progressions are designed with the learner in mind, taking into account common misconceptions, learning challenges, and developmental milestones. They provide a roadmap for educators to meet students where they are and guide them toward more advanced levels of understanding.

5. Formative Assessment: Learning progressions are closely linked to formative assessment practices. By understanding where students are on the learning progression, educators can provide targeted feedback, scaffolding, and support to help students move to the next level.

6. Curriculum and Instruction: Learning progressions inform curriculum design and instructional planning. They help educators sequence learning activities, materials, and assessments in a way that aligns with the natural progression of student understanding and skill development.

7. Flexibility and Adaptability: While learning progressions provide a general framework, they also allow for flexibility and adaptability based on individual student needs, interests, and learning styles. Educators can use learning progressions as a guide while still differentiating instruction and providing personalized support.

Applications of Learning Progression

Learning progressions have various applications in education, including:

1. Standards and Curriculum Development: Learning progressions can inform the development of educational standards and curriculum frameworks, ensuring that learning goals and objectives are sequenced in a logical, developmentally appropriate manner.

2. Instructional Design: Educators can use learning progressions to design lesson plans, learning activities, and assessments that align with students' current level of understanding and help them progress to the next stage.

3. Differentiated Instruction: By understanding where individual students are on the learning progression, educators can provide differentiated instruction and support based on each student's unique needs and learning profile.

4. Student Self-Assessment: Learning progressions can be shared with students to help them understand their own learning journey and set goals for further growth and development. This can foster metacognition and self-regulated learning.

5. Professional Development: Learning progressions can serve as a tool for professional development, helping educators deepen their understanding of how students learn and develop in specific subject areas. This can inform their instructional practices and assessment strategies.

Challenges and Considerations

While learning progressions offer many benefits, there are also challenges and considerations to keep in mind:

1. Complexity and Variability: Learning is a complex, non-linear process, and individual students may progress at different rates or in different ways. Learning progressions should be used as a guide rather than a rigid, one-size-fits-all approach.

2. Disciplinary Differences: Learning progressions may vary across different subject areas or disciplines based on the nature of the content, skills, and ways of thinking involved. Developing learning progressions requires a deep understanding of the specific disciplinary practices and concepts.

3. Assessment Alignment: Assessments must be carefully designed to align with the learning progression and provide meaningful information about student understanding and growth. This requires a shift from traditional, summative assessments to more formative, performance-based measures.

4. Teacher Training and Support: Implementing learning progressions effectively requires significant teacher training and support. Educators need to deeply understand the learning progression framework, how to use it to inform instruction, and how to interpret and respond to student data.

5. Equity and Inclusion: Learning progressions must be developed and implemented with attention to equity and inclusion, ensuring that they are culturally responsive and accessible to all students, regardless of their background, language, or learning needs.

Learning progressions offer a powerful tool for understanding and supporting student learning over time. By providing a clear, coherent framework for the development of knowledge and skills, learning progressions can inform curriculum design, instructional planning, assessment practices, and professional development. However, implementing learning progressions effectively requires careful consideration of the complexity and variability of learning, as well as attention to equity, inclusion, and teacher support. When used thoughtfully and in conjunction with other best practices in education, learning progressions can help educators create more effective, engaging, and empowering learning experiences for all students.