Are learning goals the same thing as learning targets?
Learning goals and learning targets are NOT the same things. Simply stated, a learning goal is a state standard in which a unit is built around, whereas learning targets are how the goal is reached. By the end of a teaching unit, every teacher’s desire is for the state standard to be mastered, but a goal worth reaching takes time.
This is where learning targets come in. Learning targets are progressive steps to be mastered one at a time. Each step guides the student towards the learning goal or state standard. Targets can be accomplished in a day or two, whereas learning goals are long-term and often take weeks to master. A learning goal is the ultimate objective for any teaching unit, but learning targets are necessary to achieve the goal.
How many learning targets are needed to accomplish a learning goal?
The answer will vary depending on the learning goal. If a teacher is presenting a unit about “theme in literature” and the learning goal is to define what a theme is, this may take only a few learning targets to accomplish. On the other hand, if students are asked to determine a theme in a story by analyzing the characters and plot, then mastering the goal will require more steps or targets. Verbs found in the standard offer hints to the level of difficulty mastery will require. Most teachers are familiar with the verbs found from Blooms Taxonomy or Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK). These two educational resources can help teachers determine the level of difficulty of their unit’s standard or learning goal. This will help when creating learning targets.
How do learning goals and targets help the teacher?
Teachers can plan and assess better by using learning targets. Each learning target is presented as an individual lesson with its own “I Can” statement, which can be formatively assessed. Each target builds from the mastery of the target before. Before a student is ready to move on in the unit, mastery is required of the current learning target. This is measured using a formative assessment created for the current learning target. Formative assessments inform the teacher of any struggling students and intervention can begin before the unit is completed
How do learning goals and targets help the student?
In his book, Visible Learning, John Hattie wrote about ways to increase student achievement. Student self-reporting, feedback, and reducing anxiety are listed at the top of strategies yielding the best results. Learning targets accomplish all three.
Self-reporting happens when a student has an opportunity to reflect on their understanding of the learning goal at the beginning of a unit and set a goal for where they want their understanding to be at the end of the unit. The learning goal and targets help the student to stay focused and be able to reflect on their progress.
Feedback happens throughout a unit, through the formative assessments of each individual learning target. These mini-assessments give feedback to students on their progress and what they may need to work on.
Reduced anxiety is guaranteed when students are guided to the learning goal through bite-sized lessons. Learning targets allow the students to learn the skill(s) they need in understandable chunks, which prevents students from becoming overwhelmed. As anxiety decreases, student achievement increases.
Visual examples help the students to keep their eye on the learning goal. A teacher can display each learning target and point to the specific target being taught that day. This offers students positive feedback as to where they currently are and where they are headed.
Another way to help students keep their eye on the prize is by having them rate their progress of the learning goal using Marzano Learning Scales. These scales rate “I Can” statements in a range from 0-4. The students reflect on their current level of understanding and choose a statement from the scale that best fits their understanding. The scales range in the degree of a student’s perceived understanding. A rating of “0” represents no understanding for the student, ratings of 1-2 represent progress, ratings of “3” mean students believe mastery has been accomplished. Students who believe their understanding has extended beyond mastery will rate themselves with a “4”. Marzano Learning Scales can be displayed in the classroom as a resource to help them reflect on their progress of the learning goal daily.
The students can also use a student-tracking sheet with learning scales. A tracking sheet helps students keep their eye on the prize of mastering the unit’s overarching learning goal. The tracking sheet can be kept in a student’s notebook where they can rate their daily progress.
For a complete unit that includes a learning goal, learning targets, learning scales, and formative assessments, check out our Determine Theme Unit or Identifying Text Structure found in our store!
Hubbard’s Cupboard is made up of a mother-daughter team who complement each other’s talents. Trudy has taught 4th and 5th graders along with being an instructional coach with interest in curriculum design. Amy is a graphic designer and illustrator who puts her special artistic touch to the products. Please visit their store Hubbard’s Cupboard for more products that include rigor and creativity.