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Setting Objectives

Learning outcomes are the skills and knowledge a student will possess upon successful completion of a lesson.

The learning objective for a lesson will fit generally into one of these five sets:

1 Acquiring and applying knowledge (learning factual information such as names of people, equipment, places, symbols and formulae)

Many lesson objectives may fall into this category. Teaching methods that lead to meeting these objectives are highly organised by the teacher. Pupils are led through a well-planned set of activities.

2 Acquiring concepts (understanding concepts including abstract ideas, reasons, generalisations, laws, principles, how processes occur)

A large proportion of objectives in secondary education fall into this category. Once again teaching methods will be highly organised, but will often involve more than one approach being used, so that pupils increasingly develop a better grasp of the idea. This may happen over a period of lessons.

3 Acquiring new behaviours, learning new skills (learning processes and procedures, handling equipment, writing specific text types, applying techniques, analysing information)

All subjects have a significant number of lesson objectives associated with skill acquisition and practice. Subject-specific skills are easily identified; however, underlying skills are often hidden and pupils’ lack of skill, for example in writing or discussion techniques, may be the cause of slow progress. Teaching methods are highly structured and involve direct interaction between teacher and pupil.

4 Exploring attitudes and values, perspectives on a problem and solutions to complex issues (developing understanding through empathy, caring, sensitivity towards social issues, moral issues)

While all subjects will have objectives in this category, some will have a significant number, such as personal, social and health education, social studies, drama, RE, history and geography. Teaching methods, while being structured, often involve high levels of pupil–pupil discussion..

5 Personal growth, developing creativity (exploring motives, creating, designing, hypothesising, exploring alternatives)

Subjects such as personal, health and social education, citizenship, English, art, drama, music, dance, design technology have many lessons in this category; other subjects also have a number. Teaching methods here seek to promote productive independence, helping pupils become increasingly aware of their abilities.

They should be capable of being assessed.

Your objectives should be clear to you before you design the activities for your lesson. After all, if you don't know your objectives, how do you know what you are trying to teach? How do you know exactly what it is that you are going to assess? Knowing what your specific objectives are determines what activities you plan to use in order to meet those objectives.

  • Stage 1 - What are the desired results? (objectives)

  • Stage 2 - How will you verify these results? (assessment)

  • Stage 3 - How will you design the learning experience? (instruction)

Any one lesson should have a maximum of three learning objectives and very often a lesson will only have one or two. This enables a proper focus on the learning, rather than an attempt to deliver too much activity.

Learning Objectives should

  • Describe, simply and exactly what the students will learn during the lesson

  • Explain with passion what success will look and feel like

  • The learning objective gives the overview of what learning will take place during the lesson. This may be in the form of a question, e.g How does…?

  • Learning Outcomes are how the student will demonstrate this learning and must be learning based, not task driven

You want to tell pupils why they are doing what they are doing and how it fits into the bigger picture of the subject or their wider learning.

You may find it helpful to use stems such as ‘By the end of the lesson you (pupils) will ...’ plus:

  • know that … (for knowledge – factual information such as names of people or equipment, places, symbols, formulae etc.);

  • understand how/why … (for understanding – concepts, reasons, effects, principles, processes etc.);

  • develop / be able to … (for skills – using knowledge, applying techniques, analysing information etc.);

  • develop / be aware of … (for attitudes and values – empathy, caring, sensitivity towards social issues, feelings, moral issues etc.);

  • explore and refine strategies for ... (creating, designing, hypothesising, exploring alternatives).

An alternative is to phrase objectives in terms of the stem ‘We are learning to …’ to give pupils some consistency.

Success criteria should be shared with pupils every lesson

You want to tell pupils what you expect from them as a high-quality outcome of each lesson or part lesson (‘episode’).

  • Have you defined the outcomes clearly?

  • How do you plan to explain them to pupils?

  • You may find it helpful to use stems such as:

What I am looking for is for you to set your conclusion out in three paragraphs: the first will describe the pattern you found in your results; the second will explain this, using the scientific ideas we talked about; the third will state whether the hypotheses you investigated were supported or not from the evidence.

What I expect from everyone is a description of the events leading up to the Norman invasion in 1066. It should have three main parts: an introductory paragraph to set the scene, a description of events in chronological order and a closing statement. A good one will contain …

For top marks you will need to solve the equations for all values of x and show clearly in your working how you reached your answer.

To be successful your group will have listed the pros and cons for each of the suggestions on the paper provided and be prepared to give feedback in 20 minutes.


Objective Starters:


Review Checklist for Writing Learning Objectives

  • Does the learning objective stem from a course goal or objective?

  • Is the learning objective measurable?

  • Is the learning objective written in terms of observable outcomes?

  • Does the learning objective target one specific aspect of expected performance?

  • Is the learning objective student-centred?

  • Does the learning objective utilize an effective action verb that targets the desired level of performance?

  • Does the learning objective match instructional activities and assessments?

  • Does the learning objective specify appropriate conditions for performance?

  • Do the learning objectives measure a range of educational outcomes?

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