A combination of my ongoing mentoring of an M.Ed. student, a request by a commenter (Ian Guest) and some broken links on the newly-restored teaching.mrbelshaw.co.uk has spurred me to write this post.
As a teacher, I’ve never really known a world before learning objectives. It was certainly something that was expected of me during my PGCE at Durham University and from then on in my teaching career. And, to be fair, it’s fairly obvious why. If a learner knows what’s expected of them, and then can ascertain whether they’ve achieved a learning goal, then they’ve been successful.
However, I’ve seen learning objectives used really badly. I’ve seen a ‘learning objective’ that ran something like:
To know who the Romans were.
How would a learner or teacher know whether any type of meaningful learning has taken place with this as a learning objective?! A far better one would be:
To list 3 ways the Romans have influenced life in the 21st century.
This is SMART – i.e.
- Specific – ‘list 3 ways’ tells students exactly what to expect.
- Measurable – both students and the teacher can tell whether the learning objective has been attained.
- Achievable – the learning objective is open-ended enough to allow for effective differentiation.
- Realistic – this particular learning objective doesn’t really require any prior learning.
- Time-related – students need to have achieved this learning objective by the end of the lesson.
Even better practice would be to use ALL, MOST and SOME with learning objectives. This allows for even more differentiation and sets and explicit baseline for all learners.
To use the above example again:
ALL students should: list 3 ways the Romans have influenced life in the 21st century.
MOST students should: decide which Roman innovation has been most profound.
SOME students should: explain how Roman innovations have changed/evolved over the last 2,000 years.
It’s only after the learning objectives have been formulated that lesson activities and resources should be prepared. After all, if the activities and resources aren’t focused on learning, what are they focused upon?
Do you have a view or some advice on learning objectives? Share it in the comments below!