I have been with the same school district since the fall of 2010. One of the first things I remember learning is that it was a district expectation that teachers post "student friendly learning targets in 'I can' statements." Our walkthrough form had a section where the target is identified as posted or not posted. I learned that it was an expectation teachers struggle with achieving.
Fast forward six years...
The expectation has not changed and neither had the struggle for teachers to consistently post targets. Human nature tells me that with 100 teaching staff members, a few will forget to post or change them on any given day. Looking back on walkthrough data our school building consistently posts and teaches content learning targets 81% of the time. Why is it not 100% or at least extremely close?
So, I asked teachers...
Answer 1: We get busy and we forget to post them.
Answer 2: The students don't look at them.
Answer 3: I don't see how they help. I don't believe in them.
These answers made me realize the "mandate to post" targets was heard more than the "mandate for posting" targets. We want to ensure students understand the relevancy and "why" of learning something. We must do the same here.
What is the Mandate for Posting Learning Targets? Below are the four points that, I believe, sell posting targets in clsssrooms.
Just Posting Targets Will Do Nothing
Having well written targets on the board does nothing to support learning if they are not explicitly taught to students. Students must understand what the target means and understand it's connection to the day's activities. Teachers who start with the target, refer back to the target, assess the target, and holds closure on the target will have deeper student understanding - if the student understand the learning target. Having them visual supports our English Language Learners.
Targets Must Tie to Common Formative Assessments
As a student, if I read a target as "what" I am learning today, how will I know I learned it? The content of the target is the most important concept, problem, or theme of the unit or lesson. Teachers should be developing formative assessments that measure the content learning target. This allows the student to assess his or her learning and the teacher can examine data to determine progress of learning.
It Is Research Based
McREL completed a study update on Classroom Instruction That Works in 2010 (1) and showed the effect size of posting objectives as 0.31. This would equate to 9-10 month's growth in student learning. The key to it being research based is that it is used to connect students to learning. When written as "I can" statements it sets the stage for the student to self assess learning.
We Missed the Boat
The video below is researcher John Hattie who explains how posting Learning Targets without also addressing success criteria weakens the goal. Students must not merely know "what" or "how" they are going to learn but also what the criteria is to be successful at a high level.
Posting targets must be about the "what" (content target) and the "how" (language target). We must also present, for understanding, the criteria for achieving the learning of the target. Students must know what they are learning, how they are learning it, and the criteria set to measrlure if they learned and at what level.
What we are learning (Content Target)
How we are learning the content (Language Target)
When will we know we have been successful (Success Criteria)
Ryan Dumkrieger is the principal of Sioux City North High School.