Learning Targets--Helping Students Aim for Understanding in Today's Lesson
By Connie M. Moss & Susan M. Brookhart
I highly recommend that you read this book. It will really help your understanding of what Learning Targets are and their importance.
*I found used copies on Amazon.com-very inexpensive to purchase ISBN 978-1-4166-1441-8
I'm going to highlight the important points that I've taken from each chapter throughout the next few weeks so I hope you follow...
Chapter 3: Sharing Learning Targets with Students
This chapter will explore how to put the learning target into the minds and hands of students in ways that make learning visible, develop students’ sense of personal agency, and enable them to take responsibility for their own learning throughout the lesson. There are suggestions for effective ways to help all students recognize what success looks like for today’s lesson.
*Sharing the Learning Target:
Sharing learning targets with students means more than simply writing the target statement on the board or stating the target at the beginning of the lesson. When we use the term share, we mean that teachers use multiple strategies during a formative learning cycle to make sure that students recognize, understand, and aim for what is important to learn during today’s lesson. Teachers share the learning target when they embed it throughout today’s lesson in ways that keep students “on target” and help them sharpen their aim in pursuit of essential understandings. Sharing the target means that students are engaged in a performance of understanding, use look-fors to assess the quality of their learning, and receive timely suggestions and strategies that feed their learning forward while they are learning.
Remember, sharing the learning target is the means. The desired end is students who develop into self-regulated and assessment-capable learners.
*Engaging Students in a Strong Performance of Understanding:
The single best way to share the learning target and success criteria for today’s lesson is through a strong performance of understanding: a learning experience and resulting student performance that embody the learning target and provide compelling evidence of student learning.
A strong target-performance match translates the learning target into action. Engaged in a strong performance of understanding, students should be able to conclude, “If I can do this, then I will know I’ve reached my learning target.”
What we ask students to do during today’s lesson should help them make meaning and give them a chance to observe their growing competence.
A performance of understanding is not the same as an assignment, an activity, a task, or homework. Although a task may be hands-on or interactive, it needs to fulfill important requirements to make the grade as a performance of understanding.
“Performance” is only half of the concept. The crucial other half of the concept is “Understanding”.
A performance of understanding both develops understanding of the concept and produces evidence that helps students and teachers gauge where that level of understanding resides in relation to the learning target and the success criteria.
A performance of understanding, therefore, is a carefully designed learning experience that happens during the formative learning cycle in today’s lesson.
Its purpose is to:
Embody the learning target.
Promote mastery of essential content.
Develop students’ proficiency in specific reasoning skills.
Provide compelling evidence of student learning.
Prepare students for elevated degree of challenge that will face them in tomorrow’s lesson.
**Students should be able to recognize what is important to learn, how they will know when they have learned it, and how they will be expected to demonstrate their learning. It also means that the level of challenge in today’s lesson prepares students for the increased level of challenge they will face in tomorrow’s lesson in a different performance of understanding guided by tomorrow’s learning target.
**Increasing the Degree of Challenge
A lesson should never ask students to do more of the same. Lessons should continually challenge students to set, aim for, and reach short-term goals that progressively take them to long-term outcomes.
*Defining and Designing Strong Criteria for Success
Even with a strong performance of understanding, students cannot become sharp-shooters until they are able to discern the levels in quality that differentiate hitting the bull’s-eye dead center from hitting one of the target’s outer rings. To hit the bull’s-eye, student need criteria for success—a set of student look-fors—to use during the formative learning cycle in today’s lesson and to apply during the performance of understanding.
To be useful the criteria must be specific to the learning target, understandable, and visible. Success criteria answer an important question about the lesson from the student’s point of view: “How will I know when I hit my learning target?” Many educators mistakenly assume that they are sharing success criteria when they tell their students how many questions they should get right on an assignment or encourage them to shoot for a certain score or simply to “do their best.”
Success criteria are not ways to certify student understanding in terms of grading, rather they describe what it means to do quality work in today’s lesson in student-friendly terms that are “lesson-sized,” observable, and measurable. Students can use the criteria to plan, monitor, and assess their own learning progress.
A helpful way to think about success criteria is to envision an actual target (this target is shown on page 47). The bull’s-eye, dead center, depicts mastery—what students will aim for and what success looks like when students hit their learning target. The target’s outer rings represent the typical levels of understanding we expect to see as students move closer toward mastery—proficient, basic, or minimal.
**So…visualize a target…
The middle ring= Mastery of the learning target
Next ring= Proficiency (substantial understanding)
Next ring= Basic (general understanding)
Next ring= Minimal (misunderstanding/serious misconceptions)
Last ring= No understanding
** I think this Learning Target would be a great visual for your students. It would help them to understand where they are at with their own learning.
Once you craft the specific learning target statement for today’s lesson, consider what growing understanding and competence will look like for students as they progress from little or minimal understanding toward a more sophisticated grasp of the content. Think about how typical learning progress plays out for your students (at their age and developmental levels) in this chunk of content and during this performance of understanding.
-How will you describe mastery to them so that they will be able to tell when they hit the bull’s-eye?
-How will they know where they are in relation to mastery—the distance between their performance and the bull’s-eye—so that they can assess their progress?
Useful success criteria can take many forms, but they must do two things really well:
1-They must fit the performance of understanding.
2-They must make effective teaching and meaningful learning visible.
Strong criteria precisely describe what good work looks like for the specific performance of understanding in the lesson.
The best form for expressing the criteria depends on the learning target and the specific performance of understand you designed to make that learning target visible.
-First, decide whether your learning target is comprehension of a concept or term, demonstration of a discrete skill, creation of a complex product, demonstration of a complex process, or use of critical reasoning. Then you will know whether you can use simple “I can” statements to communicate criteria for success to your students or whether you need a more complex format—like rubrics, exemplars, demonstrations, or guided questions—to communicate the criteria.
*Sharing the Learning Target and Success Criteria Verbally
Verbally sharing the learning target and success criteria means more than simply telling students what to do in the lesson. To be effective, the language we use must be descriptive, specific, developmentally appropriate, and student-friendly. And it must be stated from the point of view of a student who has not yet mastered the learning target.
Two strategies promote effective verbal sharing:
1- Four-Step Framework
2- I-Can Framework
A third strategy—listening to students as hey paraphrase the target—deepens student understanding when used in conjunction with either oral sharing framework.
**Nice Table with examples on page 49& 50—3.2
Tailoring the Criteria for Success to the Performance of Understanding
The Four-Step Framework
This framework employs a set of “starter prompts” that unpack the learning target, performance of understanding, and success criteria from the student’s point of view.
The successive steps of the framework outline what students will learn during today’s lesson, explain what they will do to learn it, describe what they will look for to know they are doing good work, and make the target relevant by connecting it to the potential learning trajectory, future academic learning, or real-world applications.
Step 1—Explain the learning target in student-friendly, developmentally appropriate terms.
Step 2—Describe the performance of understanding.
Step 3—Describe the student look-fors.
Step 4—Make it relevant
The I-Can Framework ( table is on pg 54 for examples)
This strategy pairs a description of the learning target with an “I Can” statement that describes the performance of understanding for today’s lesson and translates the criteria for success into look-fors that students can understand and use.
Step 1—Use the first starter prompt to describe the learning target: We are learning to…
Step 2—Use the second starter prompt to alert students to the performance of understanding as an “I Can” statement. The statement should tell students what they will do to deepen and demonstrate their understanding and provide a short list of student look-fors that explain how well they are expected to do it.
-Is simple, clear, and direct.
-Says what’s important.
-Is easy to remember and understand.
-Announces what the audience should do, feel, think, or agree with.
-Explains a benefit for the audience.
**There are examples of the I-Can Framework on page 54 figure 3.4.
Listening to Students as They Paraphrase the Learning Target
Ask students to paraphrase the learning target and success criteria. After you use one of the frameworks, ask students to spend a few minutes putting the target and the student look-fors in their own words. Then have them talk about where they are on the way to the learning target. They can do this with a classmate or whole group.
Rubrics are great tools for sharing learning targets that are parts of complex concepts, processes, or skills. Some complex understandings can be accomplished in one lesson, but most require teachers to scaffold student understanding across a series of interrelated lessons.
USING RUBRICS TO SHARE CONNECTED LEARNING TARGETS AND SUCCESS CRITERIA.
Connected learning targets help students reach complex learning outcomes. Complex learning outcomes usually require more than one lesson and develop over a series of lessons as part of a potential learning trajectory.
A quality rubric, especially an analytic rubric, stipulates the essential elements of a complex performance and describes the levels of quality (success criteria) for each element. A series of lessons, then, can take students through the different elements of the complex performance to help them put it all together in the end. Quality rubrics allow the teacher and the students to assess exactly where students are and to select strategies that students can use to improve their work.
On page 56 Figure 3.5 show several strategies on how to use rubrics.
**USING RUBRICS TO EXAMINE EXEMPLARS OF SUCCESSFUL AND UNSUCCESSFUL WORK.
An effective way to share the learning target and help students discern different levels of quality of work—a process that moves them closer to being assessment-capable—is to ask students to apply a rubric to work samples that match the performance of understanding for today’s lesson. You can either collect papers or products from past students or share anonymously or create examples to represent various levels of quality—examples where the work is successful or flawed in one or several areas.
Ask students to examine the work samples or observe the performances using the criteria in the rubric. Students should underline or highlight the exact language in the rubric that describes the quality of the work. Then, in groups or as a whole class, students should share their assessments using the language from the rubrics to support their judgments. As an alternative or complementary activity, have students sort the products or performances into different levels of quality and then explain their rankings using the language from the rubric you provided or from one they created themselves.
Students who examine examples of work against criteria in a rubric will be better able to assess their own performances. They will develop a more nuanced view of what quality work looks like for today’s lesson and use that knowledge during the performance of understanding.
There are great tables on pages 56 & 57.
**The FAME Team at Norman Elementary is in the process of creating “Writing Folders” for K-5th grade that teachers will be able to use as a rubric for their students such as was described in the previous paragraph. A great example of this is a video that I posted on this blog back in November in the Formative Assessment post.
Learning targets inform the most important data-driven decision maker in the classroom—the student—by providing information about what is important to learn, how the student will be required to demonstrate that learning, and what will count as evidence of mastery.
Chapter 4 will show how teachers can use learning targets during a formative learning cycle to make teaching and learning visible, maximize opportunities to feed students forward, and increase student achievement.
I tried to highlight the most important parts of chapter 3 but again, I recommend that you read the book so that you are able to view all of the tables and other examples.