Coaching for Alignment of Learning Targets

learning targets

It is exciting to see learning targets in the curriculum storyboard. It really helps when students can see in advance what they will be expected to demonstrate learning. And, the more explicit and focused the target, the more likely they will hit it. Although many people are indicating a target with the opening phrase “I can…” it becomes actionable when the full statement is made.

For example, in this HS science map, Craig started with this target:
I can annotate my thinking and highlight important information.

This is a good translation of an important literacy skill that he is bundling with the science unit. However, as it stands, it is a claim without contextualizing how the student will demonstrate they can do this.

As his coach, I asked him to go back to what he wrote in the focus area and see where he is looking for the student to use these skills. He immediately modified the target to read:

I can annotate my thinking and highlight important information to help me build my background knowledge in order to formulate new questions, develop informed hypotheses,and create meaningful experiments to test them.

Now the target is providing skills specifically applied to the content. However, it is still a lot for a student to consider. I suggested that he might break it apart so that the student can be better informed about what he needs to work on to demonstrate success.

He finally came to these statements:

I can annotate my thinking and highlight important information by identifying the key words and visuals in the text in order to build background knowledge.

I can formulate new questions and informed hypotheses by analyzing the meaning of the knowledge I learned.

I can create meaningful experiments to test my hypotheses by using the scientific method.

The value of breaking it apart is that students will be able to scaffold their learning and self-assess where they are in the process. They can check in with a peer or teacher to make certain they are moving along the path and change their course of thinking, if not. Finally, they can show a performance that can demonstrate answers to the questions:

  • What is science?
  • What do scientists do and how do they think?

This work only took 15 minutes. The thinking was all in Craig’s head. However, it moved the target into something a student could read and identify with what is to be attained. As curriculum designers get better at defining the target, so will students be better able to take aim!

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