Typhani Harris | January 2017
Objectives, Aims, and Outcomes… Oh My!
In our data-driven educational landscape, the use of measurable objectives, aims, and outcomes have become somewhat of a norm. Have you ever delivered an exquisite lesson, where your students are on point, and in walks an administrator to observe? To your surprise, Murphy’s Law doesn’t kick in and your lesson continues flawlessly, and you enter your debrief super confident.
Then your administrator says “how do you know your students learned?” This question might seem easy at first. You say things like: “they were all doing the task,” or “I walked around and saw that they were completing the work,” or the question catches you off guard and you think…ummmmm…Wouldn’t it be great to have a concrete answer to this question, or better yet, if tangible evidence actually drives your future lessons?
How these terms are defined varies from site to site. For the purpose of this post, let’s norm our language:
Aim: the aim is the ultimate target, the thing you are aiming for. This can be in the form of a project, an essay, an experiment, ultimately the final assessment of the unit.
Outcome: the outcomes are the milestones. These are the smaller goals and products that the students will produce as stepping stones to the ultimate aim.
Objective: the objectives are the daily baby steps students will take to reach the outcome and eventually the aim. These measurable objectives become the data for you, the teacher, to determine whether or not students are ready to move on with your lessons.
Every site has different expectations, and that’s ok, but if you have heard these terms and are not sure what to do with them here is a chance to workshop what they are and what they can mean to you and your students. Today we are going to focus on 3 part measurable objectives. Please remember, this is just one way to approach 3 part measurable objectives, there are many philosophies.
3-Part Measurable Objectives
Part 1: The first part is Behavior.
This is the student behavior you are evaluating and usually includes a product/task. The behavior is often represented by a verb; these verbs can be pulled from Bloom’s Taxonomy, Costa’s levels of questioning, and/or Depth of Knowledge (all which you can quickly Google to find what you prefer).
Examples: Identify synonyms by matching like terms; defend your position by writing a persuasive paragraph; interpret the piece by critiquing the author’s statement and comparing it to the composition.
Part 2: The second part is Condition.
This is the environment that is provided for the students in order to be successful in the behavior. Often seen as a teacher action, the condition offers the method by which the teacher sets up the students so they can successfully perform the behavior.
Examples: after lecture and note-taking, given an informational text, after cooperative group practice
Part 3: The third part is Criteria.
This answers the question: how do you know that your student learned? What do your students need to “score” in order to be successful? Is it a number of accuracies? Is it a percentage correct? Is it a rating on a rubric? Beyond the score needed to determine success, this underlines the data you need in order to determine whether or not you can move on. How many of your students need to be successful (as defined by the criteria) in order for you to be comfortable moving onto the next lesson…we will get more in-depth about data in a couple weeks :)
Examples: 90% accuracy, a score of at least 3 on a rubric, 8/10 correct
What does this look like?
Example: After demonstration and modeling, students will successfully identify at least 7 of 8 steps for proper alignment in dance.
Behavior: an identity; Product: steps in alignment
Condition: demonstration and modeling
Criteria:7 of 8
As the teacher, I know that my students need to identify at least 7 of the 8 steps in order to be confident in moving forward with the next lesson. As the teacher, I also need to determine how many students I need to meet this objective before I move on. Maybe I need at least 90% of my students to meet this objective, or maybe I know I am going to spend ample time reviewing this during the next lesson so I am OK if only 30% get it today because I know I am going to reteach it tomorrow?
Example: After lecture and demonstration, students will correctly apply the Pythagorean theorem to at least 3 of the 5 problem sets.
Behavior: apply; Product: practice problems
Condition: lecture and demonstration
Criteria: 3 out of 5 correct
As the teacher, I know that my students need to apply the Pythagorean theorem accurately to at least 3 of the 5 practice problems. As the teacher, I also need to determine how many students need to meet this objective before I move on. Maybe I need at least 90% of my students to meet this objective, or maybe I know I am going to spend ample time reviewing this during the next lesson so I am OK if only 30% get it today because I know I am going to reteach it tomorrow?
Example: Given an informational text, students will determine and defend the author’s claim with textual evidence with at least 3 out of 4 on the paragraph rubric.
Behavior: determine and defend; Product: paragraph
Condition: a reading of an informational text
Criteria: 3 out of 4 on a rubric
As the teacher, I know that my students need to determine correctly and defend appropriately the author’s claim. As the teacher, I also need to determine how many students need to meet this objective before I move on. Maybe I need at least 90% of my students to meet this objective, or maybe I know I am going to spend ample time reviewing this during the next lesson so I am OK if only 30% get it today because I know I am going to reteach it tomorrow?
There are many things to think about here. How do I ensure my students understand the objective, how do I make sure they meet the measurable objective, what do I do if they don’t? Furthermore, this is an enormous amount of information for my students, how do I make it digestible for my kids? So, let’s break it down.
How do I ensure my students understand the objective?
Begin your class with the objective. Discuss with your students the outlook for the class period, and discuss with your students what the objective means for their learning on that particular day. If you use power points, keep the objective on every slide. Refer to it throughout the period and use it as an exit.
How do I make sure they meet the objective?
This is grounded in the criteria. What makes your students successful at this learning point? How are you going to gather their learning data at the end of the period, how are you going to use that to inform your next lesson? What do you do if the majority of your students don’t meet the objective by way of the criteria you have set? Knowing the criteria helps you and the students to know when they are successful at the learning point. We will take a look at data collection in a couple weeks, but when students know clearly and precisely what is expected of them they push themselves to reach that expectation.
What do I do if they don’t meet the objective?
If students don’t meet the objective based on the criteria provided, then the teacher must modify. Sometimes, if you know you are teaching the same topic during the following lesson, it might be ok if your students don’t meet the objective on the first try. However, if you are planning to move on, the data determining the number of students who are successful and ready to move on is imperative to the progression of your instruction. What is the point of moving onto your next lesson if a majority of your students are not successful in mastering your previous objective?
How do I make it digestible for my kids?
A full 3-part objective might be a little much for your students to read and digest. While it is applicable for your written lesson plan, especially if you share it with others, have visitors coming, or want to ensure you understand what you really wanted when the lesson comes up again next year, it might be a little much for your students. It is completely acceptable to post an objective that is more accessible for your students (of course, check with your site, some sites have a format by which you cannot deviate). If you are allotted flexibility, share the objective with students in a bullet form. Using the above measurable objectives, examples may look like this:
- I will demonstrate and model
- You will identify steps in alignment
- You need at least 7 of 8 steps correct to move on
- I will lecture and demonstrate
- You will apply Pythagorean Theorem to practice problems
- You need at least 3 out of 5 correct to move on
- I will give you an informational text to read
- You will determine and defend the author’s claim in a paragraph
- You need a score of at least 3 out of 4 on the rubric to move on
Measurable objectives might feel like more work, but your students’ ability to articulate what makes them successful is invaluable! Try out writing 3-part measurable objectives this week and have students articulate how they know they are successful, or how they know they learned, you will be amazed at your students push to be successful and so will your administration.
Next Week: Aligning Tasks to Behaviors
Next week we will look at whether we are actually measuring what we are requesting.
Lots of downloads and engaging ways to make our classes even better!