Does a Learning Objective Guarantee Classroom Learning?
22 February 2018

Does a Learning Objective Guarantee Classroom Learning?

Learning Objectives (LO) are commonly used in classes across the UK, but do they guarantee that learning has taken place in all cases?  Are some pupils copying the LO and assuming that by writing it out learning will take place, whether they listen and engage or not?  In reality, what use is a Learning Objective without an evaluation of how far the LO was met and by what percentage of the class? And if or where the LO is not  met, is there a plan-b to help those pupils that didn’t learn what was intended? Learning Objectives look good but are they an attempt to follow Education watchdog Ofsted's guidelines, therefore more about providing evidence?

These are important questions.  Learning Objectives are intended to answer the question: what information should pupils be able to articulate and what skills should they be able to demonstrate as a result of teaching input? Advocates of Learning Objectives state that they help teachers organise their materials/resources and discern what information to include for each of their lessons; they assert that LOs give teachers direction and help to stay focused during the lesson.

Learning Objectives are intended to help teachers in the ways mentioned above and also for better clarity about how they can achieve their goals: what techniques they need to use. Learning Objectives are also intended to give students a way to think about and talk about what they are learning; helping them become more active and self-directed learners. Is this realistic for the less able pupils?

Sharing Learning Objectives with the class may provide useful indicators to pupils of what they can expect to cover in their lessons. At Leaders are Readers, we provide our pupils and parents with comprehensive lists of topics covered and skills to be taught.  Our small class size and regular testing, help us pick-up a struggling child and provide early intervention support.

Learning Objectives should be realistic to teach, as an example - unless the teacher has strategies for teaching pupils how to be better world citizens, it should not be listed as a Learning Objective. When a student is being trained in a skill where straightforward mastery is required such as maths, a Learning Objective or competence descriptor lends itself more readily to a 'straight' objectives-based approach.

Learning Objectives should be dynamic and meet the needs of the pupils. If evaluation and support procedures for children with special needs are built in; if written mindfully to help both teacher and pupils, Learning Objectives can be effective in providing a systematic approach to learning. If these procedures are not in place or not sufficiently rigorous, at what point do parents get to know their child is struggling? What help can the school offer and what options do parents have to resolve the matter?

How many teachers feel that they simply do not have the time to produce well-written objectives/learning outcomes? More valuable goals may be harder to express in clear/concise statements and not be included simply because of time constraints. If insufficient time and skill are devoted to the task, the net result may be anything but beneficial. How many children are left behind? 

References
http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Constructing-student-learning-outcomes.aspx
http://www2.rgu.ac.uk/celt/pgcerttlt/specifying/speci10.htm

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