By Britany Kuslis
All teachers should strive to develop daily measurable learning targets that include action verbs, are aligned with assessments and course expectations, and are measurable with the end-goal in mind. After writing the learning target, teachers rarely include success criteria indicating how students will know they have achieved the goal. Teachers should include this performance objective along with the learning target and tell students directly what work they will produce as evidence of their learning. (Moss & Brookhart, 2012).
For us to integrate learning targets into daily lesson planning and classroom procedures, we need to understand that a learning target is not an instructional objective. An instructional objective is written from the teacher’s point of view. Learning targets are written from a student’s perspective and shared throughout the lesson so that students can use them as a guide for their own learning. A new teacher may find the following approaches helpful when writing student-friendly learning targets for the first time.
1. Write a learning target using student-friendly language.
A learning target states what the students will be able to do or will come to know as a result of the lesson. This learning target is specific to one class; it is not a target that should cover more than one lesson. It is a specific, daily, instructional objective written to be student-friendly. The teacher must share the learning target with the students verbally, by using a visual, by sharing student exemplars (strong and weak work), and/or sharing what came before the lesson and what will be coming after.
2. Share the learning target with students.
Sharing the learning target with students is paramount to this process. We shouldn’t be teaching like they did when I was in school, in a game of smoke and mirrors where students couldn’t ask teachers what they were doing during that class. All students in the classroom should know the learning target and how they can show evidence of achievement. Doing this makes the end goal clear to everyone.
3. Develop success criteria for the lesson (a performance objective).
If the learning target tells students what they’re learning in the lesson, the performance of understanding tells students how they’ll know they’ve learned it. The success criteria translates the learning target into action (Moss & Brookhart, 2012). If students are engaged in a strong performance of understanding, they should be able to conclude, “If I can do this, I’ll know I’ve reached my learning target.” Just as important, teachers should be able to conclude, “If my students can do this, I’ll have strong evidence that they’ve reached the learning target” (Moss & Brookhart, 2012, p. 44).
Aside from the physical “I can” or “we will” statement that will be shared with students, students should engage in an activity that deepens their understanding of the content and skills of the learning target. Students need to be able to apply the success criteria to their own work and produce evidence of where they are in relation to the learning target (Moss & Brookhart, 2012). Sharing and providing students with “look-fors” (criteria for success) in the form of a checklist or exemplar/model helps them determine how close they are to accomplishing the performance objective.
4. Feed students learning forward.
By providing timely feedback that is descriptive and related to the learning target, teachers can help to move students’ learning forward. The feedback also must fill the gap between what they’ve understood and what they’re supposed to understand (Svanes & Skagen, 2017). In this way, students can see where they are in relation to the criteria for success, and teachers can suggest strategies or ways students can be more successful to promote growth. Simply providing students with the opportunity to immediately use the feedback or work one-on-one or with a group of students are all ways to feed students’ learning forward.
Through implementing learning targets in my classroom, I have been able to make my daily lessons more meaningful. By writing learning targets from a student’s point of view, I have learned that students are more successful when information is chunked. I also have found that providing students with timely feedback and giving them the opportunity to use the feedback to improve their performance is a skill that has improved my day-to-day teaching practice.
Mrs. Kuslis is an English teacher W.F. Kaynor Technical High School, teaching courses in Creative and Nonfiction Writing, Journalism and Media Awareness, and English III. She has been teaching for 11 years and is a doctoral candidate in Western Connecticut State University’s Doctor of Education in Instructional Leadership program.
Moss, C. M., & Brookhart, S. M. (2012). Learning targets: Helping students aim for understanding in today’s lesson. ASCD.
Svanes, I. K., & Skagen, K. (2017). Connecting feedback, classroom research and Didaktik perspectives. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 49(3), 334–351. https://doi.org/10.1080/00220272.2016.1140810