I wrote about learning objectives earlier this week but wanted to zoom in on one element of learning objectives that I find very important and helpful for students and teachers. Writing and posting learning objectives is great, but if we are just doing it to “jump through a hoop,” or to fulfill an evaluation requirement, we are not serving ourselves or the students.
When walking into the classroom in the morning, it may be easy to forget to write the daily objective down. Even if we do manage to get it on the board, is it meaningful or are we using it?
One way to make learning objectives meaningful is to make them specific. I quoted Marzano in my last post who basically said the more specific a learning goal the better.
Inspired by a lesson I observed this morning, here is an example of the role specific objectives can play. Consider the following learning goals:
- Today we are going to learn about poetry!
- Today we are going to learn about Haiku and Limerick Poetry.
- Today we are going to identify the characteristics of Haiku and Limerick poetry and compare and contrast the effects of those characteristics and analyze how they impact the tone of each genre.
Consider these questions and I will speak to each of them briefly:
1. How would developing a learning goal like #3 help you design the rest of your unit?
- Specific learning goals give students and teachers common direction.
Everyone is on the same page and understands the end result expected. To take it a step further teachers can then elaborate using a scale to explain levels of criteria to meet the objective, but let’s save that for another post.
- A specific learning goal will help teachers develop tasks,activities,and assessments more effectively.
Consider #2, a slightly more specific goal than #1. This goal does not help the teacher consider activities because it is too general. Whereas with #3, students know that they will need knowledge of the characteristics in order to eventually describe what effects those characteristics have. So a teacher who knows students who have to compare these two styles may ask students to look closely at both types of poems and analyze the characteristics of each completing a Venn Diagram to record their learning. A teacher lacking a specific goal may result in a lesson where the teacher just reads the poem and discusses it with students without any specific focus. How can we identify if a student is learning if the what the student is supposed to learn is not clear?
2. Let’s say you are teaching this and you are going to use the Venn Diagram Task I explained above, but you posted learning goal #2 and barely talked about it. How much difference would it make to specify that objective and refer to it throughout the lesson and what are some strategies to help do that?
- By writing the specific learning goal and discussing with students, teachers will have a reference point throughout the lesson to help students remain focused on the task at hand. We can more easily chunk their learning. Teachers could say things during class like
“All we are doing now Is identifying characteristics of a haiku, later we will move on and talk about their effects and even use them in our writing, but first we need to find out what they are.”
- When students demonstrate success with learning goal by identifying a few characteristics of each poem we can point to the board and give them some positive reinforcement by letting them know they have completed the first part of that learning goal and then probe them toward the more complex part. That is difficult or impossible to do with vague learning goals. This may sound like:
“Yes, that’s right (insert name here) Haiku Poems are very short and follow a specific pattern, How does that effect the tone?”
- Using those objectives to help clarify where the lesson is going and using them as a reference point to show them where they are in relationship to the goal is one way to help students track their progress.
- So, when we walk in the room in the morning, I encourage to think deliberately about your learning goals and rather than wasting your time and energy by writing down a goal that won’t help you or the students, spend time developing a specific goal and use it during the lesson to help keep you and students focused on the end result during the lesson.
If you have ideas or reflections about how you use learning goals in your classroom, please share them in the comments below.