4.2 All the instructional outcomes are clear, written in the form of student learning. When teachers make learning outcomes clear, they promote higher student engagement and ownership of learning. Clear learning targets allow students to focus on key lesson content as they engage in planned learning activities. In the course of my internship, I have seen that the strength and clarity of learning outcomes (written and discussed as learning targets) is what allows my students to successfully engage with content and progress toward unit objectives. In other words, learning targets provide the context that engages learners and makes activities meaningful (Ainsworth, 2010).
During our recent novel study, I asked my students to draw a visual of a particular scene from the book, and to support this drawing with three quotations from the text. On this particular day, I did not carve out time for my students to examine our learning target. I believed that the parameters of the assignment would guide students toward learning outcomes. This image shows one example of a student’s finished work. The student drew a picture of the Navajo “Blessingway” Ritual and copied three quotes from the text, fulfilling the stated requirements of the assignment. The quotations this student chose are from the chapter I assigned, but not all of them provide relevant insight into the visual. While the student did provide page numbers, they did not punctuate the quotations as one would when citing textual evidence to support textual analysis.
Through this experience, I saw how difficult it is for students to perceive the relevance of activities and to focus their efforts on specific skills without first engaging with a learning target. In this example, the skills in question were visualizing text and supporting ideas with textual evidence. While most students followed directions, they chose evidence that was only superficially related to what the image depicts, and neglected the punctuation I’ll be looking for on their essay at the end of this unit. A learning target would have made clear that this assignment was more than a drawing and three quotes from the chapter, but an opportunity to practice writing an essay. This has a significant impact on student learning; my students won’t likely read into the parameters of an assignment for bigger unit understandings unless I explicitly facilitate that process. The more I can help my students understand unit objectives, the more they’ll be able to own their progress toward those goals. I can improve in this area by establishing clear instructional objectives, and then presenting activities as intentional practice of toward mastering those objectives.