Ok, so everybody recognises this to be an important part of any lesson, but it should not simply be something that is done because it is expected. It really does serve an important function in terms of the learning from the pupils perspective and for managing this from the teachers perspective. In this short post, I provide some thoughts about the functions of Learning Outcomes and how to share these effectively during lessons.
Firstly, there are a number of functions that the sharing of Learning Outcomes achieves. The obvious one is that it lets pupils know what the lesson is about and provides a point of shared ownership over what will take place in that lesson. However, it also:
- Provides scope and focus to the learning and teaching activity.
- Allows pupils to set their learning within the context of the associated exceptions.
- Provides a practical focus to the teacher in planning and managing of pupils learning.
- Provides pupils with something against which they can consider nature and extent of their progress and learning.
This being said, there are a few things to consider when sharing learning intentions (or intended learning outcomes, or learning outcomes!):
You should try and avoid doing this the same way for every lesson. If you do, there is an increasing tendency (over quite a short space of time) for it to become habitual/mechanical/’routined’ and pupils inevitably engage far less. The sharing of learning intentions becomes overshadowed by the process of copying them out, or reading them on the same white board or classroom display; it kind of fades into the background of the lesson.
A far better approach is to mix and vary this and not simply ‘share’ in the sense of letting pupils see them. If you are starting a new topic, sharing learning intentions at the very start of the lesson could be great. If you are including a recap of the last lesson, it may be transitionally more appropriate to introduce the learning intentions after this. Vary the way and place in which these are displayed: use PowerPoint, white boards, pieces of paper – state them verbally for dictation, but try and ensure that they are somewhere where pupils can refer back to when they wish during the lesson.
So what of not simply sharing in the visual sense? Well, it is easy to think that having pupils copy down the learning intentions at the start means they have shared. This is because, in a technical/espionage type sense, they have been. In an educational sense, however, I would argue more that they have in fact been ‘revealed’ to pupils; not ‘shared’. Shared in this context has to refer to a shared understanding and it cannot be assumed that because pupils copy them down, they: (i) all understand what they mean and, (ii) all understand them in the same way the teacher does. Here, something deeper is required for them to be shared as a learning commodity. This is most easily done through questioning. Questions to pupils could relate to the what they think the whole statement means, what they think certain words mean if these are unusual and discipline-specific but, moreover, should conclude with a consensus about what they mean for the learning they are about to engage in.