I am not always sure about how explicit to be about learning targets. I have seen some convincing research, which seems to indicate that letting students know exactly what is expected of them for each lesson helps them to take ownership of their learning, and to make sure that they are getting what we think they are getting during each class session. I agree with this practice in general, and I believe that it definitely has a positive impact on some students. My current school, as well as the previous one have required that we post targets each day, and there are many educators who I respect who advocate for this practice. But sometimes, I feel like a learning target can put a limit on where we can go as a class, and can feel a bit stifling, especially when we want a problem or exploration to feel open-ended.
Lately, I have adopted a practice of “Hidden Targets.” I do post the learning target, but I often leave it covered up during class.
As part of our end of class routines, students make conjectures about what they think that today’s learning target was. We reveal the target, assess how well the lesson matched the target, and whether the learning matched what was expected. Although I think that I am good at starting class off, and generating enthusiasm, I sometimes am not as good at synthesizing and wrapping up. Being conscious of synthesis and wrapping up class in a richer way has been one of my goals for this year, and this routine has been a good protocol for me and for my students. It quickly reminds us about what we learned during class, and how this lesson fits in to the bigger picture. Students have been highly engaged in figuring out the day’s learning goals; I hear students talking throughout the class period about what they think is under the flap for today – and you know that they remind me if I forget to do the “reveal!”