Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Learning Targets Chapter 2: Learning Trajectory?

Learning Targets Chapter 2 (part 2 in a series to summarize the book Learning Targets by Connie Moss and Susan Brookhart)

“The whole concept of standards-based instruction assumes that individual lessons, over time, will amount to achievement of a larger standard.”
 (Moss & Brookhart pg. 29)

From my perspective, there are few things more beautiful that the trajectory of a homerun ball as it leaves the bat and towers toward the outfield bleachers (Yes, I am imagining my many wonderful summer days sitting at Wrigley Field with my Dad).  The sound of the crack of the bat, followed by the immediate gasp from the crowd, and then the celebration that begins long before the trajectory of the ball has stopped is upward spiral and falls to earth is something that every baseball fan has experienced and leaves you with a certain adrenaline rush that can’t be explained.  It becomes the “it” moment of the day. 

The best teachers, and even some average ones every now and then, experience that “it” moment while teaching and learning.  It happens at that moment when every thing comes together perfectly and their plans turn into reality as their student meet and exceed their expectations.  In Chapter 2 of Learning Targets, Moss and Brookhart, explore the concept of potential learning trajectory.  The authors are clearly challenging educators to go deeper and think about how they plan lessons.  On page 29, they state that planning for effective daily instruction consists of three things:

·      What are the essential knowledge (facts, concepts, and generalizations, or principals) and skills (or procedures) for the lesson?
·      What is the essential reasoning content for the lesson?
·      What is the potential learning trajectory in which the lesson is situated?

If you consider and can articulate these things you are ready to design a dynamic learning experience for your students.   The authors outline four steps in designing a learning target.  They also highlight several misconceptions and implementation mistakes teachers often make by not going deep enough with their planning. 

STEP 1: Define the Essential Content for the Lesson
STEP 2: Define the Reasoning Processes Essential for the Lesson
STEP 3: Design a Strong Performance of Understanding
STEP 4: State the Learning Target

All our students are on a learning trajectory…some days we hit home runs with them and the trajectory goes up and sometimes we strike out and the learning trajectory goes nowhere.  By intentionally planning for the learning with not only the content in mind, but also our student learning trajectory, we can formatively gauge the lesson throughout and monitor our own effectiveness.

Questions for thought:
·      How do you and your PLC identify your instructional objectives, the essential content, and the thinking skills they require to address various stages of students learning trajectory?
·      Learning Targets are not the same as Learning Objectives, after reading the Chapter 2, what is the difference?

·      If you already use “I will” and “We Will” statements, how do you incorporate them throughout your lessons?


  1. Chapter 2 was great to build practical understanding of learning targets and their application within the classroom. I love how the chapter refocuses what we already should be doing. The Learning Target tells students exactly what they will be learning and they should be able to do to demonstrate their learning. The 4 steps mentioned are what we think about every day while we are planning.
    1. What is our SE?
    2. At what level of thinking or reasoning process should my students be able to perform the skill.
    3. What is the task I am going to use to demonstrate my thinking.
    4. How am I going to communicate the learning to the students so they know exactly what I want them to learn and know.

    PLC time is a great time to begin to tackle Step 1. Teachers must have a deep understanding of the SE and the content around it. We have talked about unpacking the standards for years, but do we always do it? Or do we get comfortable with what we think the standard is and we go with it. The level of complexity (Step 2) can also be explored through that lesson design time to ensure that we are teaching at the level the SE was designed. Lastly, designing dynamic learning tasks (Step3) that match the SE and rigor will ensure that our students are applying their new knowledge.

    On page 39 near the bottom, it talks about introducing the learning target at the beginning of the lesson, revisiting it during, and using it to wrap up the lesson. This is an important part of creating the climate of the learning being at the forefront of the thinking. It reminds students throughout the lesson what should I be learning and doing. It also allows students to self-reflect and assess their learning along the way. We know that when student self-assess are much more successful.

    Page 40 also makes a great point. Learning targets help students go from compliance to owning their learning.

  2. A learning objective is what we will accomplish after we implement our action steps. A learning target provides us with guidance to accomplish the objective. In order to hit the target, we have to understand how we are going to do it, what resources are available, who can implement the plan, how long do we implement the plan, etc....simply put, it cannot be accomplish without intentional and purposefully planning.

  3. A learning objective is knowledge that we want the students to walk away with. A learning target is a well thought out plan of getting that knowledge to them and through them. For a lesson to be successful, there must be a well devised plan and a lot of thought behind it. I really like the graph on page 38-39.

  4. Page 40 stood to me as well, Stephanie. Particularly, the mentioning of learning targets making the difference in complying with teachers' request and students pursuing their own learning. Students pursuing their own learning strengthen their metacognitive skills and increase intrinsic motivation for learning- they will remember what they learn! In our PLCs we do a fabulous job identifying the skills and concepts to target by using a myriad of data points/sources: assessments, TEKS, observations, scope and sequences, and more. We could create more opportunities, however, identifying the reasoning processes students will need in order to reach the target. If we consider the reasoning processes necessary that also makes us deeply analyze the TEKS and our target. By examining the reasoning processes needed, we can design lessons for students that are purposeful and on-point with where we are going in our learning experience. We often plan quickly and know by instinct the intended outcome for a unit or lesson. Considering the reasoning process, calibrating our lessons and activities creates more opportunity for student engagement, learning, and success.

  5. PLCs in the past have focused on student learning using data from district and teacher made assessments. We focus on what our objective was and ask ourselves, "Did this assessment truly give accurate feedback on student understanding of the standard?" Then we look at a sampling of student work from each classroom. Teachers talk about how they taught the lessons and the level of engagement of the students. We have had conversations when one class seemed to outperform the other classes. Each time we have those crucial conversations, the teacher in question has taught the lesson differently, added to the lesson, or used a strategy that the rest of the team did not know about. We don't want to be cookie cutter teachers each doing the same thing... but we do want to be smart in our teaching. If someone has a strategy that will better address the standard, WE WANT to know what that is. Our PLCs will evolve based on what we are learning from this book study. I think we are headed in the right direction, but we do need to continue to reach out to others in the profession.

    I am very interested in intrinsic motivation for learning from our students. This concept has often been something that students have struggled with in the classroom. Many days I wonder if I am more concerned with the success of my students than they are personally vested in their learning. It is a tight rope that we walk each day wondering what makes some children so focused and engaged while others are watching the clock for the lunch bell to ring. I can see their little faces and I wonder, "Why are they not listening?... This is great stuff" - to me.

  6. I completely agree with Lisa's second paragraph!
    I loved the graphic on p. 38-39 on the HOW to write the LT. It is so detailed and can guide me with the questions to ask myself to drill down to those skills they need to master the objective. In PLCs it will be crucial after we identify the objective that we really drill down to the skills necessary to master the objective.

    1. I also appreciated the very precise instructions and examples of how to write a learning target. I will definitely refer to these graphics when planning my lessons!

  7. So many great thoughts on here already! The graphic on pg 29 really spoke to me the first time I read this book and it still does. It paints a super clear picture for teachers in regards to how to build a learning target...begin with the end in mind. Where do we want our students to be and how will we get them there AND all the while having students metacognitvely think for themselves.

    Pg 31 states "What performance of understanding will help my students develop their thinking skills and apply new knowledge?" The author is asking teachers to give EVIDENCE of student learning. Our teachers must be intentionally designing lessons that incorporate performance opportunities that showcase learning i.e. the evidence that the content was mastered. This must start occurring on a regular basis in our PLCs. The big idea for me is how will I establish a framework and campus culture for this to occur.

  8. This chapter is vital in understanding what is and is not a learning target and how to create one. It requires teachers to take a thoughtful approach in developing learning targets, a thorough and deep understanding of content, and inviting their students into their own learning process. How will we accomplish this? We will need to be very focused in our PLCs and allow time for our teachers to delve deeply. Through deep conversations and understanding of our TEKS, teachers will be able to create these - the real issue is: time and focus through collaboration!

  9. When I read this chapter, I didn't feel like I could define "learning target" much beyond saying that it is like a student-friendly version of the objective. Action Tool A (p. 164) at the back of the book really helped clarify things for me. I was pleased that our campus is already moving in the right direction with our we will/I will statements in our lesson plans and on our whiteboards (p. 32).

  10. I believe the learning target is the small step(s) that lead you the overall learning objective. A child will only know HOPE when they are able to see and understand the “next step” needed in order to get closer to the overall learning objective. I loved the statement on page 15 that says, “meaningful student learning happens when students know their learning target, understand what quality work look like, and engage in thought-provoking and challenging performances of understanding.” Wow that about conferencing, looking at work together with the student and making those small goals to get to the next step.

  11. After reading this chapter, I have a much better understanding of the differences between learning objectives and learning targets. Learning objectives give a broad overview, often encompass several lessons, and are mainly for the teacher's benefit. I see the objective as the final destination on a long road trip. Learning targets are day by day, laser focused for one lesson. These would be the daily stops on that road trip. Learning targets should be clear to the students, in terms that they understand. Having used the "We will, I will" statements the past couple of years, I found this to be affirming of what I already do. The difference is to take that component and refine it so that it is crystal clear what we are aiming for each day.

  12. After reading, I am trying to makes sense in my mind as to the differences between Objectives and Learning Targets.

    ~about instruction
    ~ teacher driven
    ~ adult language and perspective
    ~guides the lesson

    ~about learning
    ~ shared student and teacher driven
    ~ student language and perspectives
    ~ guides the lesson