Imagine you are going for a hike.
You’re standing at the edge of a large forest, hiking boots on, snacks and water in your backpack. You know that your destination is a cabin in the woods, and you’re eager to get there. There’s a problem, though:
The only information you have about your destination is that it is 20km away.
There’s no trail, coordinates, or direction provided… just the distance from your starting point and where you want to end up. That said, you’re an eager beaver, so you tighten your laces and get hiking. You figure that you’ll hike for 20km and see where you end up.
Chances are that you’re going to get lost in the woods.
This scenario may seem very strange, but the reality is that we regularly put our students in those very same metaphorical hiking boots: we provide them with a destination while only sharing extremely fuzzy details on how to know if they are heading in the right direction.
When students wind up getting lost and ask how far off they were, our response is often “by about 14%.” Think about it: that’s a weird response. It provides no further clarification of the destination, nor does it share actionable insight into how students could have done better.
Now, imagine if we provided students with a map at the start of their hike.
A map helps make destinations concrete. It provides us with a tool that we can refer to determine our current location. Most importantly, a map helps us measure the gap between where we are and where we want to be to decide what our next steps should be.
The first thing I do when planning a new unit is to build a learning roadmap.
Learning roadmaps are the student-friendly, qualitative rubrics that I design to support my students learning and provide direction for my instruction and assessment. They are based on the unpacking of standards and grade-level outcomes and get referred to throughout my lessons.
Learning roadmaps help my students understand where they are going, determine where they are now, and decide what they will focus on next to close the gap.
To help you better understand how to design learning roadmaps, I create this free mini-course on the topic.
You can also learn more by reading my blog post on Designing Learning Roadmaps.