Why it’s so essential to build rigorous learning goals and scales

Why Learning Targets and Scales Are Important

Students need feedback to stay focused on their progress, but the feedback must be based on something attainable and measurable. Clear learning targets, bolstered by actionable feedback, provide:

  • Daily objectives that help teachers effectively scaffold instruction
  • A system to build on (and deepen) students’ understanding of critical content
  • A pathway to autonomy so students can take ownership of their learning
  • Valuable information that students need to improve on their skills

Creating goals and scales doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Students don’t need to see all of their learning goals at the same time. They don’t need to see past or future goals. They only need access to the goals that pertain to what they are learning today. This gives teachers a lot of flexibility in how to communicate them.

“If I do the following, I can meet the goal.”

A well-devised scale helps students engage in important inner dialogues. It answers the question, “What is expected of me?” and enables them to see that even the most challenging tasks are entirely possible. In short, it empowers them take control of their learning. However, for all of this to happen, they need teachers to provide the goals and scales.

Goals are the easy part. Teachers know what they want students to learn, but a goal without an accompanying scale leaves the equation half complete. Scale building is essential.

Building a Scale

Where to begin? This is a mystery to many educators. Designing and using scales is a fairly new concept in education, but the process is not complicated. In fact, it basically consists of four steps:

  • Step 1–Write a scale for the overall learning goals in the unit (not the activities and assignments that will help students reach them).
  • Step 2–Unpack the learning goal to show how students will meet it. How will you scaffold your teaching? Identify building blocks that will serve as steps of your scale as students progress from simpler to more complex content.
  • Step 3–Place the simpler parts of the goal at Level 2 and the target-learning goal at Level 3 on the scale. Level 4 should require students to apply their knowledge, going beyond what was explicitly taught.
  • Step 4–Share the scale with students so they can track their progress toward the goal.

Six Easy Ways to Share Learning Goals With Students

  • Flip charts. Use a separate page for each subject to quickly display a goal each time you change subjects.
  • Work packets. Add daily targets and scales to work packets so students always know which goal to focus on.
  • Laminated templates. Laminate a template and write on it with an erasable marker.
  • Assignment attachments. Display the learning goal on every activity and assignment.
  • Tape goals to desks. Tape long-term goals to students’ desks and leave them there all year.
  • Index cards.  Write unit goals on index cards and attach them to an O-ring so students can keep them in their binders.

There are many other creative ways to make learning goals and scales accessible to students. Our training, resources, and services will help you build deep expertise on creating and implementing the most effective goals and scales for any type of learning environment.

Click here to learn about our Goals & Scales PD Pack.

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