I am sure many of you (teachers) including myself remember being asked to write a lesson objective on the board for students to view. You do this partly because it is part of your evaluation. The other part is for students to know what the lesson is about. But have you ever wondered, do most students understand the purpose of the lesson and the intended outcome? Probably not. For this reason, I want to show how you can raise the trajectory of student learning so students know the purpose of the lesson and understand the target they are aiming for.

This subtitle: Mining the Instructional Objective: What is this lesson’s reason to live, Chapter 2, How to design Learning Targets of the book Learning Targets, puts my thinking about the lesson objective from a fresh perspective. Moss and Brookhart, author of the book, emphasize to plan effective instruction, teachers need to know three things about today’s lesson:

- What is the essential knowledge (facts, concepts, and generalizations or principles) and skills (procedures) for the lesson?
- What is the essential reasoning content for this lesson?
- What is the potential learning trajectory in which the lesson is situated?

Moss and Brookhart reasoning is you will have the raw materials you used to design the learning target if you mine the instructional objective for these three elements. You can think of these three elements as ingredients: the lessons “reason to live.” If the essential elements do not advance learning on a trajectory toward more learning, then the lesson becomes questionable whether we should teach it at all. The point of standard-based instruction is individual lessons, overtime, which will amount to achievement of a larger standard. See Figure 2.1 below:

**Four Steps of Designing a Learning Target**

**Step 1. Define the Essential Content for the Lesson**

This step requires you to have a deep understanding of the intended learning. This deep understanding is not merely to list the facts and concepts that students should know, but placing them into any larger learning picture. Besides a deep understanding of the intended learning, you need to have a clear idea of what a lesson-sized “chunk” of your instructional aim looks like. What portion or aspect of the instructional aim are you going to work on during today’s lesson? All of it or part of it? Moss and Brookhart suggest you should communicate longer-range goals to students, but do not lose the sight of the fact that students need a learning target for today’s lessons.

Once you have a deeper understanding of the instructional aim and what aspect or aspects of it, you will base your lesson on, ask yourself the following questions suggested by the authors:

- What content knowledge does this lesson focus on? Content knowledge should be more than facts; it should also include concepts and generalizations or principles.
- How will this lesson add to what students have learned in previous lessons?
- How will this lesson increase students’ understanding of the content? Will students develop a more sophisticated understanding of a concept, or will they tackle a brand-new concept?
- What skills does this lesson focus on? Skills is a broad term, encompassing abilities like outlining, summarizing, questioning, graphing, etc.
- Will students learn a new skill, practice one they have yet to master, or apply a highly developed skill to a new context?

**6th grade Math Example:**

6.SP.1 Recognize a statistical question as one that anticipates variability in the data related to the question and accounts for it in the answers.

6.SP.2 Understand that a set of data collected to answer a statistical question has a distribution which can be described by its center, spread, and overall shape.

The teacher begins work on these standards and wants students to develop a basic understanding of the concept of variability and build on their previous work on graphing to move into the concept. Thinking about her students’ learning trajectory and mindful of the standards toward which trajectory is leading, the teacher writes these instructional objectives:

- Students will explain how the element of chance leads to variability in a set of data.
- Students will represent variability using a graph.

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. | Content* 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. | Reasoning Processes*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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