This month’s reflection question focuses on Standard 3 and working with “challenging learning goals”. How do you create an expectation of challenge and success in your classroom? How can learning goals help with this? In this post, I share some of my own strategies for writing learning objectives that help you help your students meet those challenging goals!
A great set of learning objectives for a lesson should:
- Let students know what’s expected of them and how they can check themselves against that expectation
- Reflect your data on students. They should be written in a way that allows you to use what you’ve learnt about your students current capability and interests as well the content you’re covering
- Encourage your students to become independent learners. They should build metacognitive skills so that they can learn to manage their own learning by understanding how and why they are learning
They’re all about the learner and the skills they are developing.
Your objectives, when displayed and shared with your students, should be written so that they can understand them. That doesn’t mean that you have to dumb down the content in the curriculum. It might mean that the objectives use the meta language of your content area and that you need to help them understand that too. Let them join in and become experts in the field.
One thing is for sure, they are NOT copied and pasted from the content descriptors of the Australian Curriculum. That’s a document for teachers not students. Those descriptors contain statements that need to be broken down into chunks. One lesson does not necessarily mean one content descriptor!
They’re not just about covering content. They are about acquiring skills and understanding. Make sure that they reflect the mastery of a skill used in the context of the content of the curriculum.
Differentiate by Outcome – Use your data
Not all students are created equal and neither should your lesson objective be. I was always encouraged to have three levels in mine: Some Could, Most Should and All must. To start with this was tough. Do these statements give permission to students to stay at “All must”? How might you feel if you never reach “Some Could”? I soon realised that most of the questions said more about the learning environment I ran than the objectives themselves. If all students are encouraged to learn together, to understand that we all have strengths and weaknesses, that we’re here to progress, and that our classroom is a place where you’re challenged to challenge yourself…. well, then those questions never turned into issues.
These levels also made me think more deeply about the design of my lesson task as a whole. I have to consider the broad sense of the data I have on my students. The “Some Could” part ensures that I have a challenge ready to go, the “All Must” ensures that I design my lesson so that everyone succeeds and walks away having learnt something. This makes sure that I have to consider my students as individuals, what their barriers to reaching that “All Must” might be and how I’m going to make sure they get over that barrier. In fact, the same becomes true of the middle and upper ability skills – we’re always striving for the top and then beyond. You see, I also throw in a “surprise me” objective. This is usually hidden on my IWB and is accessed by those who have already beaten my hardest challenge. This doesn’t happen too often… if I’ve used my data right I can pitch it right without the surprise me… but it’s always cool if someone does surprise me 😉
Blooms Taxonomy to deepen learning
If you’re unclear how to differentiate content then differentiate the learning by the depth of their understanding in the bloom taxonomy. Have each objective move through the taxonomies so as to give them an opportunity to deepen their understanding. Although the taxonomies are often presented in a line, you don’t have to start with remember and work in any given direction. Sometimes we need to create something before we can remember it and vice versa. Let them move around the taxonomies exploring the learning from different angles. This fantastic Blooms Taxonomy wheel (shown here) is amazing for helping you find the verbs for your lesson objectives. This one is even better for your students – Ask them to pop it inside their exercise books… help them to develop their own language of learning – metacognition is a powerful tool.
Use them frequently – Mini Plenary
Plan to refer to those objectives often. Give your students an opportunity to connect with them and practice analysing where they think they’re at. Create a culture of growth in your learning environment. Everyone’s moving along the journey together but at different paces. Check in with them. Encourage them to read the objective after a short task and indicate where they think they’re currently at. This is important for developing self-directed learners who are confident in assessing their own progress and the strategies they use to learn. It’s also a great way to make sure that your planned activities are having the desired effect 😉
Objectives first, activities second
Your objectives are personalised to meet the needs of the students you have in your classroom right now. Write them down first (at least in draft) and then go looking for the activities and pedagogies that will ensure their success. Always start with your learner and their needs, not the content. You need to interpret the content to those requirements so that you can stretch them and challenge them to achieve above and beyond their expectations.
Your turn to reflect:
Did this blog post help you? Which learning outcome are you going to meet today?
All must: Create a list of success criteria for great learning objectives
Most should: Create some learning objectives by selecting techniques from this post as a guide.
Some could: Evaluate the impact that your current and future learning objectives are having/will have on your students’ progress.
You’ll find these in the image at the top of the post too 😉