What is Learning Target?
Most teachers remember being required to write lesson objectives on the board for students to view. This enables them to be evaluated and gives students an understanding of the purpose of the lesson. However, it is unlikely that most students fully comprehend the intention or outcome. Therefore, I am proposing strategies to increase student learning, allowing them to become aware of the purpose and understand what they need to achieve.
This chapter of Learning Targets, titled ‘Mining the Instructional Objective: What is this lesson’s reason to live’, by authors Moss and Brookhart, poses new thoughts regarding lesson objective planning. They contend teachers must be aware of three things regarding the current lesson to create effective instruction.
- The essential knowledge and skills required for the lesson are facts, concepts, generalizations or principles, and procedures.
- The essential content of this lesson is the reasoning process.
- This lesson is part of a learning trajectory.
Moss and Brookhart state that if we mine the instructional objective, we can access the three essential elements which form the raw materials for designing a target goal. These ingredients will have to advance the trajectory of learned knowledge over time. If they do not, it is questionable whether we should teach that lesson. The purpose of standard-oriented instruction is to reach larger standards through individual lessons over time. Refer to Figure 2.1 below.
Four Steps to Creating a Learning Goal
The objective of this lesson is to outline the key components.
Developing an understanding of what is intended to be learned is important. Clarifying the portion of instructional aim to focus on in today’s lesson should also be done. Communicating longer-range goals helps students understand why they are learning, while providing a learning target for each lesson can help students stay focused.
To develop your lesson plan, consider the instructional aim and identify the relevant aspects. Then ask yourself the questions recommended by the authors.
- This lesson focuses on content knowledge that encompasses facts, concepts, generalizations, and principles.
- This lesson will build upon the knowledge gained from previous lessons.
- This lesson will help students improve their understanding of the content by introducing or expanding upon a concept.
- This lesson focuses on various capabilities, including summarizing, asking questions, and graphing.
- Students will acquire a new skill, refine an existing skill, or apply a highly developed skill in a different context.
6th Grade Math Example
Identify a statistical question as one which considers the variability in data associated with the query, and accounts for that variability in answers.
A set of data related to a statistical question will exhibit a center, spread, and shape in its distribution.
The teacher works on these standards and wants students to understand the concept of variability, based on their previous work on graphing. With consideration for the standards addressed by this learning trajectory, they write instructional objectives.
- Students will discuss how randomness affects the variability of data.
- Students will illustrate variability with a graph.
In the chart below, you will find the first three steps in reaching the learning goal:
|Potential Learning Trajectory Considerations||Elements for the Lesson|
|Step 1. Define the essential content (concts and skills) for the lesson.||*My students can create a simple bar graph given a set of data.|
*My students have a naïve idea about the concept of chance, and this lesson will deepen that understanding.
*My students have a solid understanding of how to look for and represent a pattern.
*My students already know that chance exists in games like bingo, dice, cards, etc., but do not understand that chance exists naturally in the everyday world.
* My students must learn that chance occurs naturally during everyday procedures- like why they make cookies.
*My students must learn that chance causes the values in a data set to vary.
*My students must learn that variation in the data creates a pattern.
|Step 2. Define the reasoning processes essential for the lesson.||*My students have little practice with mathematical prediction.|
*My students have experience with analysis.
*My students can build on what they know about cause and effect.
*My students know how to brainstorm.
*My students must learn to analyze on everyday procedure to recognize the elements of chance embedded in that procedure that might cause a data set to distribute itself randomly.
|Step 3. Design a convincing performance of understanding that will develop student understanding and provide interesting evidence of student learning.||*My students can observe and analyze a simple procedure.|
*My students need to show an understanding of cause and effect reasoning.
*My students have practiced brainstorming reasons for common occurrences.
|Performance of Understanding:|
*My students must engage in a performance of understanding that stimulates naturally occurring elements of chance in ways that require them to observe, graph, analyze, and explain the effect that chance has on data pattern.
*My students will use data on the number of chips in chocolate chip cookies for these purposes.
You can see from the chart above: as the teacher thinks about the learning trajectory, she recognizes students have already developed some relevant concepts and skills. Other relevant concepts and skills shown in elements for the lesson needed to develop by students.
Step 2. Define the Reasoning Process Essential for the Lesson
In this step you need to think about what students must do and how they do it. Author of How to Unpack your Learning Targets, identified this in the Cut the Fluff section. Moss and Brookhart suggest using Bloom’s taxonomy and provide guiding questions for the reasoning processes essential for the lesson:
- What thought-demanding process will allow my students to build on what they already know and can do?
- What kinds of thinking will promote deep understanding and skill development so that students can analyze, reshape, expand, extrapolate from, and apply and build on what they already know?
Teacher uses the same thought process in the previous step for concepts and comes up with the reasoning for skills to focus on analyzing everyday procedure to recognize the elements of chance embedded in that procedure.
Step 3. Design a Strong Performance of Understanding
When thinking about designing a convincing performance of understanding, it is important to ask yourself “what performance of understanding will help my students develop their thinking skills and apply their new knowledge?” Another word, what evidence of learning students can produce that you will design in your lesson to help them learn and develop the skills they will need to apply their new knowledge.
Moss and Brookhart note that as the facilitator of student learning, the teacher can select performances of understanding and other lesson elements from the larger picture, which include what learning came before and what will come after. However, students are “in” the learning and know only the things they either encounter in the lesson or have prior knowledge of (Bell’s going off in my head- this is what someone had told me before). So far students doing well on performing understanding is the goal at that time and place. For the teacher, it is only one indicator of learning.
Teacher uses these conclusions to decide that her performance of understanding must give students a chance to use some skills they already have (observing, graphing, and analyzing) to learn new tasks, namely to develop a mathematical understanding of how chance operates in a data set from everyday life. The teacher plans her performance of understanding by asking students to count numbers of chips in a set of chocolate chip cookies and construct a bar graph of what they find. Students will do this in groups to share the work of breaking up cookies, counting the chips, and constructing the graphs. The result will be five graphs, one from each group, and they will all be a little different. The teacher will lead the discussions of students’ observations of the graph by using open-ended questions. This leads to
Step 4 State the Learning Target:
We will observe a pattern in graphs that we estimate about the number of chips in our cookies, and we will explain what causes that pattern.
The teacher presents this target at the beginning of the lesson, and students can refer to the target while they work, and revisit at the end of the lesson.
Learning targets represent the difference from a student’s view. Between complying with the teacher’s requests and pursuing their own learning, students who take responsibility for their own learning can show increased motivation, learn more, and develop stronger problem-solving skills.
Learning Target Action Tools from Moss and Brookhart
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