Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Images in Professional Learning

An image is worth a thousand words and can mean a thousand different things to a thousand different people. It's the beauty of interpretation, how one image can spell joy to one person and sorrow to another. A colleague of mine often uses images to let people talk about their learning or their philosophy or how they're doing, and it never ceases to amaze me how much deeper people get with this method.

She'll show an image like this, for instance:

with the caption, "My own learning is like this image..." Then we talk for much more time than was allotted on our learning around a certain topic. If someone simply asked me to describe my learning on a topic, I would probably answer in only one or two sentences, but the power of connecting my thoughts to an image gives me the vehicle to articulate. And, though this is only one image, every person in the room connected to a different climber or the mountain or the snow in a different way. We were all unique in our perspectives, and yet, the one image gave us a common starting point.

Another way I like to use images for this sort of reflection involves multiple images around the room. Once, I put up different types of cars. Another time, I put up pictures of famous paintings. The interesting thing is that with different images, you'd expect to then have homogeneous groups talking about why they chose to go to that image. But, in reality, people connect to the pictures differently, so the groups still end up having rich conversations.

Here's an example with different paintings and the prompt "When it comes to the Smarter Balanced Assessment, I am like _____ (this painting) because...  One of the paintings was Water Lilies by Claude Monet:

I expected people who felt calm and serene to stand near this one. But some people chose this painting because of the impressionist nature of it, how it gets less clear the closer you look at it. Others felt they had a calm facade but had depths of worry lurking under their lilypads.

Reflection and discussion are always a part of the work I do, but using images to elicit deeper thinking is like a magic wand. As soon as a connection between the image and our own psyche is made, we can't wait to communicate it.


  1. I have always wanted to do more of this with images. I bet it is fun to see how each image is approached by an individual.

  2. Love how the images opened the doors to conversation!

  3. A line to reflect on, "using images to elicit deeper thinking is like a magic wand". I will have to ponder using this magic wand. Thanks.

  4. I love this idea. Thanks for sharing!