Enhancing the flow of learning through ‘Phased Disclosure’


Those of you who know me will know what a hopelessly visual-biased learner I am.  I adore the way we can communicate complex ideas in a multi-layered way through a simple illustration, shape or diagram. The popularity of info-graphics and data visualisations reflect an increased interest in communicating ideas and messages in an easily accessible format.  More on this in a post to follow, but visual representations or pictorial short-hand are by no means new or unfamiliar.

I was watching the BBC documentary series ‘The Tube’ recently and episode 5 included a great piece on the work of Paul Marchant who is Head of Product Design at Transport for London.  He gave a fascinating explanation of how the signage throughout the whole London Underground system is designed.  The signs are deliberately designed so as to give just the right amount of information at the right time as you travel through the system to get to the right train.  Not only that, but the information is deliberately designed according to the best distance to be able to read it, so the size of the lettering (the ‘X heights’) is meticulously calculated to give people enough time to read the information whilst still keeping them flowing through the system.

In his piece to camera, he explained that without the signage, the commuter wouldn’t be able to make their individual decisions at the specific point that they needed which would result in an interruption to the flow of the system, which would then start to back up.  The signage enables the system to work more efficiently.”People think this just happens…” he said, but the process that underpins how to increase the efficiency in the flow of commuters through the system is very deliberate indeed.  As you would expect, this made me think about learning design…

He used a great phrase for the design principles he uses, “Phased Disclosure”.

It made me think that if we were to apply theses same principles to how we deisgn learning, I wonder if we could increase the flow of learning in lessons?

So here’s an enquiry question: “How do I increase the flow, and therefore quality of learning through my lesson design?”

And my initial thoughts on what success could look like…

1. More opportunities for quality reflection and reduction of interruptions (by teacher and learner)

2. Greater autonomy for learners to make choices (select from the 4 T’s of Autonomy: TEAM: who they work with; TIME: when they get the work done, TECHNIQUE: how they work and TOPIC: what they work on) that will lead to an increase in choices offered and improved decision-making

3. Higher levels of sustained engagement by all learners, working at their own pace and leading their own learning

I’ve had a first go and aligning the ‘flow’ of a commuter through the underground system that Paul Marchant explained to the flow of learning.  I’d be interested to hear what you think:

(1) ALL OPTIONS DISPLAYED: Go through the gate line – graphic representations of all possible travel options that are available to you (BIG PICTURE & the WHY, HOW and WHAT of learning*)

*See Simon Sinek’s great TEDx Talk about this model and his website and book “Start with the Why?”

(2) DECISION MAKING POINT: colour coded, suspended signs indicate the route to follow for the desired choice of tube line (AUTONOMY & INDEPENDENCE: 4 T’s of CHOICES: TIME, TECHNIQUE, TEAM, TOPIC*)

*Daniel Pink talks about the ‘Four T’s’ in his brilliant TED Talk (also well worth a watch in animated form in the RSA Animate series) and he has written about motivation in “Drive”

(3) REASSURANCE: as you move down the escalator, there are larger suspended signs that everybody moving down the escalator can read as they descend towards the platforms. These reinforce the information you already have and reassure you that they you moving in the right direction (QUESTIONING & FEEDBACK: LEARNER-TO-TEACHER)

(4) DECISION MAKING POINT: colour coded again and suspended, these provide you with options of northbound or southbound pltaforms (REFLECTION & RESILIENCE: PROGRESS & INTELLECTUAL RISK-TAKING)

(5) BIG PICTURE: as you walk onto your platform, you can check that you are heading the right way for this part of your journey by looking at large static ‘maps’ of the tube route on your desired line, in the direction you have opted. (REFLECTION, ADAPTATION, AMENDMENT & SUCCESS CRITERIA)

This is all very early days in my thinking, but I wonder if this gives us another way to look at how and why) we need to personalise and differentiate?

Perhaps we should be thinking about learning as ‘phased disclosure’? But exactly who gets to do the disclosure is the next challenge…

5 thoughts on “Enhancing the flow of learning through ‘Phased Disclosure’

  1. That is a really interesting idea. I’ve also been struck by my own appetite for infographics – even though I may not read the data contained! More on that when you post about it, no doubt.Phased Disclosure, along with ‘Intentional Serendipity’, looks like an excellent way to structure personalised learning. I like these pragmatic ideas because I find that when I’m trying to encourage colleagues to try new things, they need a how-to and a framework to help them move from the tried-and-trusted to the new.Thanks!

  2. Dear Mark,I am pleased you like this. I’m always on the hunt for analogies to illustrate the process and design of learning and the design world provides a rich vein of material for me.I’m working on the info-graphics post, but I keep getting distracted by MAKING them rather than writing about them! I love the concept of ‘Intentional Serendipity’ too. There’s something to be said for a ‘slow reveal’ in learning and thinking of ways to deliberately enhance a sense of anticipation as a part of a daily ‘learning’ diet.Thank you for taking the time to write a comment and for following this blog. It’s great to get such positive and thoughtful feedback!

  3. An interesting blog Zoë. This is the first blog of yours that I’ve read. I enjoyed it. Your concept sounds very much like Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development. Whether we are now more in-tune with infographics, I don’t know. I would like to comment on the idea of a lesson being like the dance of the seven veils with parts revealed tantalisingly as the lesson progresses. Surely that will lead to admiring the art of teaching whilst forgetting the true joy of learning.

  4. Glad you enjoyed it and yes, made me think about Vygotsky too :). Love the idea of the dance of the seven veils…what a beautiful way to express it all! Thank you for taking the time to read and to comment. I look forward to sharing more ideas with you.

  5. Pingback: Three professional duties…? | Full On Learning

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