Learning Objectives

A guide to making them effective

What is the purpose of learning objectives?

Learning objectives should describe what the student will be able to do once they have left your session.


They may just be able to do it a little better, they may have begun to grow in confidence with it, or they may have fully mastered it.


Learning objectives should not be used to describe activities during the class but the learning taking place; knowledge, skills and/or attributes students gain as a result of being in your lesson. Avoid a to do list of tasks!


Click here to view lesson objectives colleagues have already shared with one another through the 'Expectations' units.


What follows are a range of approaches that can support you in your use of learning objectives.


Begin by watching the video below:

Quick Teaching Tip: Learning Objectives

Bloom's Taxonomy to Write Objectives

It's important that learning objectives are structured in a way that enables progress for all students. A useful way to scaffold this learning is to make use of Bloom's Taxonomy of learning. This can help, during the planning stages, to ensure that you have objectives for students to meet that move from lower level to higher order thinking. This approach therefore leads to integrated differentiation, as well as stretch & challenge.


Bloom's taxonomy moves from knowledge and understanding, through application and analysis, to evaluation and creation.


Using a verbs chart like the one below can help you to write your objectives.

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For instance, I have a lesson where I want to begin with a recap of previous learning. This will be at the knowledge level so I can check that a foundation exists before we can build upon that -

You will be able to list the features of a volcano.


We'll now begin to explore the social, economic, and environmental impacts of volcanoes. For this, students will first be listing the factors and then analysing the effects of a particular eruption through examining case studies. They'll be moving through comprehension to analysis.


You will be able to distinguish between social, economic and environmental impacts of volcanoes.


You will be able to examine the impact of volcanoes in an unseen case study.


We are ending the lesson with a clear focus on something they will be required to do for their final examination.


What's important next is that you have a way of assessing learning at each stage.

Planning activities and assessment approaches to match your objectives

Once objectives have been written, it will be important for you to consider what activity will match each objective and how students' learning will be assessed.


Let's begin with the examples above-


You will be able to list the features of a volcano.

As this is a recap activity and I need to check if every student has 'got it', I'll set it as a 'do now' activity for all students to do as they enter the classroom. The task will be on the board and they'll be asked to list the features on a mini whiteboard. Students will be seated next to peers that can support one another through the activity so they get as complete a list as possible.

After a couple of minutes, a diagram will be placed on the board with the labels missing and students will have to check that they have all the relevant features of a volcano to go in each of the label boxes.

Nominated Q&A will be used to question students about each of the labels based on their lists. Their answers will be 'bounced' around the room so that other students can agree or disagree as well as add further detail to the responses given.



You will be able to distinguish between social, economic and environmental impacts of volcanoes.

An opportunity will be given for students, in groups, to list any impact they can think of under each category heading (handout given).

A list of impacts will be shared and they'll have to sort these into the relevant category. 1-1 support will be given throughout to support their understanding.


You will be able to examine the impact of volcanoes in an unseen case study.

A short video case study will be shown to students. Throughout the video, they'll be asked to note down the impacts under the three headings.

After a small group and whole class discussion, we'll ensure all impacts are listed and in the correct categories.

Each student will then be asked to practise an exam-style question in relation to the case study - applying knowledge gained so far in examining the impact of the volcano.


The image below may help you in identifying activities and assessment approaches that might effectively match your objectives-

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This generator prompts you to set the who, what, and how for the learning objective. It provides you with a choice of verbs to use and can help you with structuring them.

Making objectives accessible

Questions

When learning objectives have been shared with students, I've always found many of them stare back at me rather blankly. When we review them at the end of a session, it's not always straightforward to identify distance travelled.


One of the easiest ways for you to judge whether a student has made progress against a learning objective might be to phrase it as a question they must be able to answer by the end of a session. If they can answer it accurately then you can be confident in their progress. These questions can be answered verbally or in written format (via a question asked on a Google Classroom, text shared on a OneNote Classroom Notebook or plain handwritten).


Here are some examples of turning learning objectives into questions.


An English Lesson

  • Define what a metaphor is = What is a metaphor? Please give a definition and an example.
  • Differentiate between a metaphor and a simile = What is the difference between a metaphor and a simile? Please use examples from the text being studied to evidence your point.


A Childcare Lesson

  • Apply examples of policy from their own workplace to the key features of the act = What experiences have you had at work that could relate to these key features?
  • Evaluate scenarios relating to dilemmas they may be faced with at work = How would you react if a serious scenario occurred at work?


The image below is a preview of a set of slides that can help you to turn your objectives into questions that students can answer -

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Making objectives personal

After learning objectives have been shared with students, it's useful to allow them an opportunity to decide: 'Which one will they challenge themselves with?' 'Which one will they find most tricky?' 'Which one could almost be answered already?' 'How will these objectives help them to improve their skills/ knowledge/ attributes since their last assessment/ piece of feedback/ reflection?' 'What kind of target could they set themselves now they know their destination?' Essentially- this is where their targets for the session emerge.


Take a look here at ideas for students setting their own targets


Wish List

Some sessions may lend themselves to students setting their own objectives- What do you want to achieve today? What do we need to recap? What would make you feel more confident for your exam/ assignment/ work experience...? The session could then be shaped around the students' wishes. One way of achieving this via a 'wish list':


  • Students write on Post It Notes what they’d like to get out of the lesson. They stick their Post It Notes to the ‘Wish List’ (a laminated display/ a flipchart/ an area of the room/ an online Padlet wall/ Today's Meet).
  • These student wishes can then be your learning outcomes for the lesson. They can remain individualised and at the end of your lesson, you’ll be able to check whether they’ve been met or not.
  • Students remove them if they have been met. It’d be great to record this progress in some way- keep the completed ones in the room somewhere.
  • If they haven’t been met, students can leave these wishes on the wish list for a future lesson or they could be set as targets for out of lesson activity.
  • Instead of them remaining individualised, or in addition, you could discuss the individual wishes and decide on the final ones to aim towards as a class. These would then be reviewed at the end of the lesson as a more focused set of learning outcomes.

Checking progress towards objectives

Making Visible

The first step to checking on the progress against learning objectives is to make sure they're visible for the students to see.


  • Flipchart paper stuck in the room that you/ the students tick off once completed- use a PowerPoint slide/ SmartBoard Presentation/ Prezi in the same way.
  • Scrolling outcomes across the board (using IWB).
  • Weekly/ Monthly/ Termly poster- you could have your outcomes ready for a set/ group of lessons. BONUS: Try sticking these on the desks so that students can always see them (courtesy of @ASTsupportAAli).
  • Lesson worksheets/ resources- Have the outcomes printed on lesson resources so that students can always see what they’re working towards.


Checking progress

Although phrasing objectives as questions will help you to get an end of session sense of progress made, it's important to check progress during a session too.


How are we progressing against objective 1, 2, 3?


  • A show of hands (I've got this- I'm confident I can answer it now).
  • Written initials from students next to a display of learning objectives they are confident in (whiteboard/ IWB/ flipchart).
  • Traffic light rating via cards, stickers... (green = understand fully, amber = still not completely sure, red = completely lost).


For Further Reflection - Moving students on

It's important to plan each session with all of your students in mind.


For those students who speed through learning objectives- confidently achieving them- how will you move them on further?


For those students who will require more support- how will this be provided and how can you make the space and time for it to happen?


What could be provided outside of class as well as in?