Student Learning Outcomes are a big deal at our school. As part of the accreditation process for our college, we need to demonstrate that we think deliberately about what our students are learning and that we make decisions based on what we ascertain. The framing of our reflections and data collections is the topic of seemingly endless discussion and ongoing construction…all well and good, if sometimes just a bit tedious.
Happily, my students often provide some very different proof that the “learning outcomes” that I most deeply desire for them are indeed occurring before my very eyes. As I was queuing up my computer and its accompanying idiosyncratic array of devices before class, I overheard one student laughing about a text she’d received from a classmate over the weekend. The texter had visited a science museum in a distant city along with a group of children. She sent this picture:
Her text read: “I’m resisting the urge to start labeling this right now!”
Victory is mine.
When I laughed aloud at hearing the story, reminding my students yet again that gray hair does not equal hearing impairment, they began to offer examples of recent similar alterations in their perspectives:
“Now when I go the gym, I can’t stop thinking about what muscles I’m using.”
“When I eat I think about what molecules are in the food and how they turn into ATP.”
“When I had a fever, I kept thinking about white cells and pyrogens.”
These people are living illustrations of the ultimate student learning outcome. Because of our class and their diligence, their neuronal pathways have physically changed. We have forged new connections between the neurons in their brains. As a result, they see the world— and themselves within it— in a new way.
That is education.
And it’s a glorious thing to behold.