Establishing Clear Goals.
Learning Targets, Lesson Objectives, Learning Goals, Essential Questions … Call it what you will, for each and every lesson you should have a clear goal about what you want students to be able to do and understand by the end of the lesson. And you need ways to make those goals clear to your students so that both you and they can use them to gauge their progress and reflect on their learning.
Writing, sharing and using lesson goals to promote productive struggle, and implementing ongoing formative assessment as you teach is a tall order. Goals must be written in student friendly language to include expectations for both conceptual and procedural learning with room for students to measure partial as well as complete achievement of the goals. A lesson goal should not be so specific that it gives away the learning destination making student thinking and investigating unnecessary. Neither should it be so broad that it is unattainable. Nor should the goal only describe a procedure to be learned without including the understanding of the mathematics behind the procedure. Both analytical and procedural components are needed in any goal to guide learning with both conceptual understanding and procedural fluency.
You will find that well designed and implemented goals will focus your lessons for both you and your students. Highlight the goals at the start of a lesson, discuss them briefly and clarify any questions students have about the language of the goal. Assure them that these are targets to be aimed for and that you will be interested in their progress towards those goals as the lesson progresses. During the lesson, let your questions center on and refer to the goal. Ask students to use the language of the goals when explaining their thinking or asking for assistance from you or peers. Provide students time to reflect on their progress towards the goal as part of your closure.
Quality goals allow for and promote differentiation and help improve students’ ability to assess their own levels of understanding against the written goal at various levels (beginning, developing, approaching, accomplished). Remember that “Mastery takes time” so do not expect that all your students will have 100% confidence on every goal at the end of every lesson. Instead, look for and celebrate growth in each student as they demonstrate movement towards each goal.
Note: Writing goals with other teachers who teach the same course during professional learning time has proven to be a very worthwhile task. Whether you write lesson goals as a collaborative effort or individually, answering these four questions can help you write effective goals:
For a more comprehensive structure of goal writing, we encourage the use of the structures for writing learning targets created by Cheryl Tobey and Susan Creighton. A link to some of their work can be found here.