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 7: Using Learning Targets to Foster Higher-Order Thinking
*All learning targets should be judged according to how well they fit with curricular aims and how appropriate for students. It is particularly worth exploring learning targets about thinking skills.
We will review how to establish and communicate learning targets that incorporate thinking skills in student-friendly terms and how to use formative assessment and differentiated instruction to help students reach thinking-skill targets.
*Learning Targets about Thinking Skills
Defining Higher-Order Thinking-
Understanding higher-order thinking will help teachers incorporate thinking skills into their learning targets for students.
Students use higher order thinking when they:
-Identify questions, assumptions, or issues to investigate.
-Systematically collect, analyze, and interpret evidence from a variety of perspectives.
-Develop coherent descriptions, inferences, predictions, explanations, evaluations, or arguments that are evidence-based, logical, and in context.
-Regulate and appreciate the cognitive effort required to substantiate claims to knowledge.
*Establishing and Expressing Learning Targets about Thinking Skills
Before you can share learning targets about thinking skills with your students, you need to make sure that your instructional objectives incorporate thinking skills. The conventional way to incorporate thinking skills into instructional objectives is to use taxonomy of thinking skills such as Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy or Webb’s Depth of Knowledge levels, often used for state test alignment studies. There are other taxonomies of thinking skills, too. What they all have in common is that they aim to help educators ensure that instruction and assessment go beyond memorization and recitation.
The hierarchical nature of these taxonomies has led to the terms higher-order thinking and lower-order thinking. Lower-order implies that there is something “low” in value about knowing important facts, vocabulary, and concepts. There’s nothing wrong with learning important facts.
What matters is that learning doesn’t stop there. Students should be able to use the facts and concepts they know to reason, figure things out, solve problems, write research questions and hypotheses, and so on.
Brookhart (2010) has organized aspects of higher-order thinking this way:
-Functioning at the “top end” of a taxonomy of thinking skills.
-Using logic and reasoning.
-Using sound judgment.
-Identifying and solving problems.
-Being creative, seeing new patterns and putting things together in a new way.
*Communicating Learning Targets about Thinking Skills
Instructional objectives describe complex processes; it is not enough just to preface them with “I Can”. You need to show students what the objectives mean for them. All potential activities and assessment should serve the learning target. Not all students will learn exactly the same content details and process skills (writing, speaking & representing), but at the end of the lesson, they should all be able to say “I can” do whatever the learning target is. If they cannot do this yet, then they should know what to do next.
*Articulating Criteria for High-Quality Thinking
The success criteria in your learning target is based on instructional objectives. The instructional activities all serve these criteria, but they differ in their specific emphases and in the processes and products they require.
Page 121 is a Sample Rubric (7.3) of Performance-Level Descriptions Added to Success Criteria. This rubric is for a sample lesson that the book goes into great detail.
*Understanding Higher-Order Thinking across Readiness Levels
Many people have a misconception that “higher-order” thinking is necessarily more difficult than recall. Another common misconception is that students have to first “learn” facts and concepts before they can learn to apply them. Neither of these ideas is true. Level of difficulty and level of thinking are two different aspects of learning targets. The best learning involves students in acquiring and using facts simultaneously. Applying new knowledge helps students see the purpose of learning it in the first place. Educators who hold either of these misconceptions risk shortchanging young students and low achievers of any ages. Students who must slog through recall and drill assignments before they are deemed “ready” to do higher-order thinking will learn that school is boring. And they will not learn to think well.
*Higher-Order Thinking and the Learning Process
Higher-order thinking enables students to regulate their own learning processes. Metacognition, or “thinking about thinking,” requires reasoning about abstract concepts (like considering, “How well am I understanding this part?”), which is necessary for student self-assessment.
Goal setting and other aspects of self-regulation require higher-order thinking, specifically the acts of coming up with and then carrying out a plan that the student can reasonably expect to lead to improvement. In a real sense, “how to learn” becomes a learning target in its own right.
The higher-order thinking skills involved in self-regulated learning can be organized in several ways. Boekaerts’s (1999) model is used in much self-regulation research and also has clear implications for classroom instruction and assessment.
She describes three types of strategies that self-regulated learners need:
-First, self-regulated learners need cognitive strategies. Students use cognitive strategies to deal directly with the knowledge and skills they are learning. Cognitive strategies include rehearsal (copying, underling, and repeating facts); elaboration (paraphrasing and summarizing material); and organization (outlining and problem solving).
-Second, self-regulated learners need metacognitive strategies. Metacognitive strategies include planning (deciding what to do and in what order and with what resources); monitoring comprehension and performance; and evaluation the quality of one’s learning.
-Third, self-regulated learners need motivational strategies. Students need to have the expectation that they can learn the content or perform the skill to be attained. They need to value the learning, seeing the knowledge or skill as important; either in its own right or for its instrumental value in getting to some other goal—as, for example, a student who wants to be an engineer knows that it is important to learn calculus. Students need to have positive effective responses to the learning—interest, enjoyment, or some other positive emotion.
Page 127 7.5—Sample Learning Targets and Criteria for Success for Some Self-Regulation Skills
*Creativity in Learning Targets
Creativity is about defining problems or tasks in a new light and putting ideas together in new ways. Creativity is not being cute, artistic, or even interesting. The misconception that creativity means making things appealing—whether visually, as in a beautiful report cover, or verbally, as in a tug-at-the-heartstrings story—often leads to the assignment of “points” for creativity in work that is not, in fact, creative.
Students who are creative…
-Recognize the importance of a deep knowledge base and continually work to learn new things.
-Are open to new ideas and actively seek them out.
-Find source material for ideas in a wide variety of media, people, and events.
-Look for ways to organize and reorganize ideas into different categories and combinations, and then evaluate whether the results are interesting, new or helpful.
-Use trial and error when they are not sure of how to proceed, viewing failure as an opportunity to learn.
Aspects of these skills can become learning targets. Students can learn to look for what is “new” about the work of authors, artists, scientists, historians, and mathematicians. They can learn to try for “new” applications or cross-references in their own work. We shortchange students when we communicate in our words and in our assignments that creativity means visual or verbal pizzazz. True creativity is what moves society forward, and students will not develop their creativity unless they aim for it like any other learning target.
If you want students to be creative, assign work that requires them to produce a new product or reorganize existing ideas (not just facts on a poster or bulletin board) in a new way. Make creativity an explicit learning target. Allow or even require students to find and use source material beyond a set of assigned readings. Above all, make sure that the generation of new ideas—whether in writing, speech, illustration, or construction—connects to the rest of the content that the student is supposed to be learning and not to something tangential like the cover or the format of a project.
The teacher needs to have complete directions for the assignment. We are mostly concerned with the learning target and the criteria for success expressing to students, in terms they can understand, what creative work should look like.
**To further communicate the learning target and criteria for success, the teacher might draft two or three examples of varying quality and have students discuss how the examples meet or don’t meet the criteria.
This chapter and the previous have shown that every step of instruction and formative assessment should be grounded in a learning target. But at some point, instruction must end. At the end of the instruction, it’s time for summative assessment—time to ascertain and report what students have learned. In most classrooms and school, that means grading, which is the subject of Chapter 8.
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…