Sunday, February 17, 2013

Chapter 6--Learning Targets Helping Students Aim for Understanding in Today's Lesson

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 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 6:  Using Learning Targets to Differentiate Instruction

*Differentiating instruction is the process of matching students’ needs to the requirements for achievement. Differentiated instruction recognizes “students’ varying background knowledge, readiness, language, preferences in learning, and interests” and provides “different avenues to acquiring content, to processing or making sense of ideas, and to developing products so that each student can learn effectively”. 
In other words, differentiating instruction helps all students reach their learning targets.

*This chapter discusses two models for differentiated instruction:
1.       Tomlinson’s Differentiated Instruction (DI)
-DI arose in the general education context and emphasizes differentiating goals, materials, instruction, and assessment for all students.
2.      Hal, Strangman, and Meiyer’s, Principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
-UDL arose in the special education context and emphasizes minimizing barriers to goals, materials, instruction, and assessment for all students.

There is a great table on page 95 that shows a comparison on both models.

In a nutshell:
DI meets diverse students’ needs by: readiness, interest, learning profile & affect; Students are learning Standards & benchmarks and local curriculum goals & objectives; Methods used are content, process, product, learning environment.
UDL meets diverse students’ needs by: minimizing barriers and maximizing flexibility; Students are learning Standards & benchmarks and local curriculum goals & objective; Methods used are to support recognition of learning, provide multiple, flexible methods of presentation; to support strategic learning, provide multiples, flexible methods of expression and apprenticeship; to support affective learning, provide multiple, flexible options for engagement.

*Deciding When and How to Differentiate
Learning targets should help teachers decide how and when to differentiate instruction. The more directly a differentiation strategy leads to the learning target, the more important it is for learning.

-great examples on page 96 & 97

*Focusing Differentiated Instruction with Learning Targets
The learning target is central to planning good differentiated instruction right from the beginning. It is the reference point toward which your observations and assessment of students’ readiness, interest and affect, and learning profile need to point for you to plan effective instruction for that particular content or skill. 
The reason the learning target (the students’-eye view of the intentions for learning) is a better reference point than the instructional objective (the teacher’s –eye view) is that students will need to help you get the right information.

Figure 6.2 on page 98 lists some strategic questions you can use to focus your assessments of students’ needs on the learning target.

-Where is the student now in relation to the learning target?
-What portions of the learning target has the student already mastered?
-What lack of prior knowledge may be a barrier to achieving the learning target?
-What supplemental skills (reading, writing, speaking, drawing) are necessary for students to hit this target, and where is the student in relation to those skills?

Interest and Affect
-How interested is the student in the content and the kinds of thinking and skills represented in the learning target?
-What, if any, are the student’s personal connections with the content and the kinds of thinking and skills represented in the learning target?
-What prior experiences and feelings, if any, does the student have with the content and the kinds of thinking and skills represented in the learning target?

Learning Profile
-What are the student’s preferences for accessing content (hear, see, read), learning activities, and modes of expression?
-How do these preferences relate to the learning target?

*Differentiating Instructional Planning
6.3 page 101 Strategies for Differentiating Elements of Instruction

-Present content using multiple examples, in different media and formats.
-Highlight critical (to the learning target) features of the content.
-Use tiered methods so that students of different ability levels (with regard to the learning target) can interact with the content meaningfully.

-Provide diverse examples of skilled performance (different ways to hit the learning target).
-Provide opportunities for students to practice with varying amounts of scaffolding.
-Provide descriptive feedback.
-View mistakes as opportunities for learning.
-Have students keep track of their progress.

-Keep all assignments substantive and related to the learning target.
-Use the learning target to evaluate whether the (differentiated) products actually all help students accomplish and demonstrate the intended learning.
-Use criterion-referenced evaluation for final products.

Learning Environment
-Offer choices in content, tools, and level of challenge (consistent with the learning target).
-Offer choices of rewards and other affirmations.
-Offer choice of work environments (consistent with the learning target).
-Attribute success to effort, and the reason for effort to learning something new.

*Differentiating the Performance of Understanding and Criteria for Success
6.4 page 105: A Model of Instructional Planning to Support Student Engagement, Differentiated Instruction, and Formative Assessment.

-Start with the state standards (s) or curriculum goal (s).

1.  What does the general standard or goal entail? Select one specific aspect of it that is the right grain size for the classroom unit.

2.  List the lesson-sized learning targets that your students are going to pursue as they work to reach those learning goals, and the criteria for success.
-Plan at least one lesson activity to communicate each learning target and its criteria for success to students.
-Include in that activity ways for students to express their backgrounds, experiences, readiness, and interest regarding the learning target.

3. Brainstorm and list as many potential activities for instruction for each learning target as you can.
-Have more than you would need for teaching.
-Extras can help you diversify instruction (presenting content in multiple ways, providing different performances of understanding).

4. Brainstorm and list as many potential assessment methods to show performance on each learning target as you can.
          -Have more than you would need for grading.
          -Extras can be used for formative assessments (for practice, feedback, and coaching).
-Extras can help you use multiple measures to more validly represent the domain and/or to diversify assessment methods.
5. Customize a general rubric for standards-based grading of student performance on this learning target. Decide how you would apply the rubric to each of the assessments you brainstormed. For example, for a test, what would be the cut points, and why? For a performance assessment, what would be the evidence for each level, and why?

Page 111 6.5 Sample Student Self-Assessment Sheet

Looking Forward
The learning target is the key for both teacher planning and student involvement in differentiated instruction. Learning targets focus the teacher’s thinking on how and when to differentiate, identify what the teacher asks students to focus on when differentiating a lesson, and focus the design of performances of understanding and criteria for success.
Next week we’ll move on to chapter 7---Using Learning Targets to Foster Higher-Order Thinking.

As I’ve said each week, this is a great book with a lot of examples, tables and charts that I’m not including in the post. I highly recommend that you purchase a copy of the book for further information and study.

Until next week…



  1. I sometimes struggle with knowing and deciding when and how to differentiate instruction into my daily lesson plans. I know my learning targets should help me to decide when and how and I too appreciated the examples on page 96 and 97 to help with this but it is still hard for me to bring it down to a level that is appropriate for my preschool age students.


  2. i struggle doing my common core conections course 2 chapter 6