What’s In a Day’s Learning?

Teachers, how do you feel about daily learning objectives?  I know these are considered of tremendous importance by many educators and leaders in our field. And while I do carefully write an objective for my lesson on the board each day, I’ve always been less than convinced of the significance of these stated goals. The truth is, I probably can’t even count all of the objectives I have going into a day of teaching… and many of the best student outcomes at the end of the period are things I didn’t predict would happen that morning, and certainly didn’t announce on the board.

I know that what I’m suggesting is messy.  Why not just pretend that learning is simple and that it can be predicted and measured in a day?  We can and DO pretend… but most teachers also know that the learning of any one student cannot even be predicted and measured in a year!  See my recent post, Did It Sink In Right Away? and the comments below for evidence of this reality.  I can (and will) keep writing objectives that match my immediate curricular goals and state standards.  But these paint a very superficial picture of what I’m really after in my classroom.  So what’s the overall effect on teacher and student thinking of focusing on bite-size, standardized daily learning goals? Could we find a better way?

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  • Heather

    Sing it!

    Oh my word. were you in my head?!  I have so frequently wondered about the benefit of posting learning targets/objectives/goals (the verbiage changes almost yearly) in the classroom.  Thank you for posting your thoughts, and establishing the platform for more thought and conversation.

  • Shannoncdebaca

    The road less traveled

    I agree with you! What we often do is pretend that what the folks outside the classroom suggest will work to paint the picture of student understanding. It is so much more than that. I had a discussion with a parent last night online about how their son was doing in my class. OK, that is ALL about understanding and achievement. We were talking about one objective for one unit and it took me 15 minutes to explain the evidence of his learning….and we had to connect and meander through a host of other goals and objectives to paint a complete picture of just where he is right now. This is certainly a valuable conversation but it is not facilitated or even guided by the daily objective on the board.

    It is messy to get away from that path but part of becoming a practiced educator is gaining the ability to find clarity in chaos and juggle multiple lines of evidence of understanding for each of our kids. The programs and policies adopted by administrators are mostly aimed at ease of public engagement on how we as a group are doing (standard tests) and not useful tools for teachers as they try to diagnose and perscribe learning adventures to build understanding. They often get in the way by waisting precious time.

    I like to think of teaching a group of students for a year as a road trip. We know where we are going We are going to take some interesting side trips to interesting …related places. However, if you ask me where we intend to be in an hour it is not as important as to where we might take a break or that wonderful side trip…much less where we want to end our trip together. Knowing where you are going is different than knowing where your feet were 30 minutes ago.



  • MeganOrvis

    Great question!

    I have found that making some specfic goals or criteria for success in the classroom and writing them on the board has helped me keep my focus for the day’s lesson.  But I also agree that you can’t always measure what happens in the classroom with a neat diagnotic tool.  I think the more teachers discuss what the reality is for learning targets, criteria for success and short-term versus long-term goals then maybe we will come up with something that is truly effective!

  • brisonharvey

    Building Blocks

    As I approach a unit with my students, I tend to look at the bigger picture of all of the information that I am asking them to absorb in the next 2-3 weeks. I break down the unit, looking day-by-day at the “objectives.” What I would prefer to do is throw all of the objectives on the board for a unit and let the students pick through them, deciding the most efficent way for them to meet those goals.

    But that just covers the content. What about all of the other learning that happens? Social interactions? Technology? Public speaking/communication? Teamwork skills? Reading comprehension? One thing that might cover this would be student reflective objectives. Have students reflect back on the class to see what skills were used, what topics were covered, what knowledge was gained, and what the focus should be for the next day. To me objectives serve as the general direction I am moving our class forward; but what is truly learned cannot always be measured through the assessment that comes standard with each objective.