Revealing Learning Targets

DSC06230I 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.

IMG_4121As 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!”

IMG_4119…And it doesn’t hurt that we have created this sweet Appolonian Gasket on which to showcase the day’s targets.  Who doesn’t want to stare at this and contemplate infinity?!

4 thoughts on “Revealing Learning Targets

  1. Sara Dalton

    I really enjoyed reading your post about learning targets (learning objectives) and the expectation that all teachers have these posted on the board at the beginning of a lesson. Recently I had the opportunity to attend a PD seminar given by a math educator from Singapore. He described how teachers in Singapore typically do not post the objective, but instead ask the students, at the end of the group discussion about the anchor task, to write their own reflection in a math journal explaining their own thinking and understanding of the problem. I think asking students to do the metacognitive work necessary to explain their own thinking, instead of passively receiving the lesson objective from the teacher, creates the opportunity for deeper learning and retention. I love your hidden targets and the before and after discussions about what might be written under the paper. And the Appolonian Gasket is amazing!
    Math to the 7th Power

    1. Nat Post author

      Your comment is very well put. Although I had not thought about it in this way before, one of the advantages of asking students to come up with the learning target themselves, is that it asks them to be active participants. In a way, it also holds the teacher accountable to the lesson objective. If students come up with a target that is different than the one we intended, we have to take some responsibility for that, and change the lesson for next time.

      Thanks for sharing you thoughts!

  2. Tommy Lingbloom

    Thanks for the share! I have some for the same goals and struggles, and often get crazy looks when I express to colleagues my discomfort with learning targets. I love this protocol for ending class. I think I will use it in my classroom as well. Also, though it’s not this post, I wanted to let you know that Dreaded Z Disease is my all-time favorite lesson. Thanks so much for that share as well.

    1. Nat Post author

      Thanks for letting me know that you have had a similar experience. For me, it is always helpful to know that I am not alone.

      I love the Dreaded Z lesson as well! Thanks to Tom Harding from the conference at the Dana Hall school for that Gem. I look forward to the right moment to bring that lesson every year.


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