Starting Out On Target

Target transaaa

Welcome back!  This time of year our minds are full of goals for the upcoming school year, things we want to ensure we do differently or more regularly than last year, issues we want to deal with more consistently, and time frames we want to meet despite having over-packed agendas!  Having clear goals at the beginning of the year is important to our instruction, our students, and our professional growth.  Having clear goals at the beginning of each lesson is integral to instruction, assessment, and learning.

Hattie’s Visible Learning (2012) describes an “expert teacher” as passionate, professional, and well-planned.  Part of effective planning is Targeted Learning: being clear about what is to be learned (skills, knowledge and/or understanding) and having a way to identify whether the desired learning has been achieved.

Our outcomes-based curriculum lends itself nicely to creating learning targets, and clear learning targets in every lesson are an important component of UbD planning.”Teachers share the target with their students by telling, showing, and—most important—engaging students in a performance of understanding, an activity that simultaneously shows students what the target is, develops their understanding of the concepts and skills that make up the target, and produces evidence of their progress toward the target. Together, teachers and students use that evidence to make decisions about further learning.” (ASCD, 2012)

Designing learning targets becomes a framework for choosing meaningful activities to support learning outcomes. There is an overwhelming number of resources, lessons, games, activities, projects etc to incorporate into instruction as a means of teaching through constructivism and application, and enhancing student engagement–but when we view these activities through the lens of the learning target–what students need to know, understand and be able to do as a result of this lesson activity — we find we can be selective and choose only meaningful activities that convey learning and understanding of the outcome.  If a game or project does not specifically help teach the outcome, then it is a waste of instructional time.  If the project is meaningful, the learning target helps both the teacher and student become mindful of what the intended learning is.  We focus on what we will  learn today, not what we will do  today.  by continually referring to the learning target, the teacher models active and accountable learning, and helps students develop self-awareness, mindfulness, and a growth mindset.

Formative assessment is a crucial part of effective instruction.  Using assessment as learning, continually checking our learning progression against the goal (target) focuses instruction because the teacher can identify and address learning gaps, and focuses learning because students understand where they are in the attainment of the target.  Understanding what each students has learned and what they still need to learn is the basis for differentiating instruction.  The learning target becomes the framework  for developing our formative assessments.  In this way, instruction is streamlined and we capitalize on instructional time, while further building self-monitoring skills in our students.

Determining and communicating learning targets before instruction means we are starting with the end in mind (backward design).  Brain-based research indicates that when students understand what they are going to be doing and learning, they begin the lesson more mentally prepared, and activate more of their brain.  By knowing what they are supposed to learn, they can self-monitor, adjust their thinking and improve learning. (Davies, Herbst, and Reynolds, 2012).

aaaFrom ASCD Learning Targets: Helping Students Aim for Understanding in Today’s Lesson,  2012).


Where can I find “I can” statements so I can communicate math outcomes in student-friendly language?


Of course you can create your own “I can” statements to communicate curricular outcomes, but if you want some examples, try these:

1.  The Saskatchewan Common Math Assessments have “I can” statements for every outcome (as well as rubrics). Scroll to the bottom of the teacher version.

2. Prairie South School Division established this handy formative assessment spreadsheet for keeping track of formative assessments for every outcome and indicator. They have an “I can” statement for each indicator.

3.  Sun West School Division has developed “I can” statements for every outcome


References (Further Reading)


learning target 1learning target 2

Learning Targets_BFK[1]