10 December 2009

Objectifying Learning

Like most people at their jobs, teachers often discuss the latest fads happening in the profession. Lately, many of the discussions that I've had revolve around the idea of learning objectives - explicit statements of what students should be able to do if they have learned what the instructor wants them to learn - and whether or not having them written on our white board actually helps students learn more or retain the knowledge better. As a matter of fact, a recent article put "teaching without learning objectives" as the second worst teaching mistake an instructor can make, right after getting stuck in a rut and right behind disrespecting students. Over the last few weeks, I've attempted to write learning objectives above the weekly agenda. I still haven't quite gotten the hang of it, but I really plan to give it my all starting second semester.

Believe it or not, I'm constantly trying to be a better teacher and sincerely hope that each year I teach accomplishes that goal in some small way, that I improve as an educator at least a little bit more than I did the year before. So my question to you is the following: do learning objectives written on the board help you become a better learner? Why or why not? Answer the question in a minimum of five sentences in the comments, and you will earn 10 bonus points. Make sure to identify yourself in the comments so I can give everyone the proper credit. The window for answering the question will close on Monday and the opportunity is open to both seniors and freshpeople.

You turned in the mythology unit family tree and witnessed (through the power of reading) Odysseus take on the suitors.

You continued to look for symbolic imagery in Pleasantville. Tomorrow is the day to turn in your Beowulf Revisited assignments.

Edit for clarification: Just to clarify for everyone, a learning objective is different from the daily agenda I write on the board. A learning objective is meant to inform the student of the intended outcome of the lesson. For example, I could write the following on the board for a poetry unit: After completing the lesson, the student will be able to describe the traditional rules and conventions of a haiku. This is different from the daily agenda, which I write to inform you what the intended order of events would be for a class period. The question, then, remains what is your opinion on the idea of me utilizing said learning objectives, which I have done very sparingly and to which I have not called much attention, in addition to writing the daily and weekly agenda on the board.


  1. Leilani Huang2:06 PM

    Yes, learnning objectives are helpful to me as a student. They let me know what will be going on that week and that day, which is good for me so I don't have to wonder what are we going to do next? Knowing this helps me make use of my time more efficient by knowing what will be coming next so I don't become stressed with an overload of assignments. That happens when i am unaware of upcoming assignments that need more time and thought for them. Seeing objectives help prevent this and also prevent procrastination. They are also helpful in making assignments, projects, etc. seem less overwhelming. To see a step by step process makes it seem less "scary" and that increases my chances of completing the assignment. Lastly, learning objectives make it clear what your intentions are as a teacher and what you want us to do or learn. I believe clarification is key to understanding and understanding is key to learing. So we as students can accomplish what you the teacher want us to learn.

    Leilani Huang

  2. Tera Lambert comments...

    i think that yes it does help me alot becuase it keeps me foucus on what we are learning that day and i dont think anything different. they homework that i write in my planner always helps me focus on the objective because you give us homework that helps us understand the objective. this whole objective thing is a good sorce that keep kids on track because we always tend to do what is written on the board. we are looking forward to it everyday. plus you have it layed out thatwe can see the whole week and we can prepare ourselfs for tomorrow.

  3. Matt the Mighty7:59 PM

    yes,the learning objectives on the board help me become a better learner, because it reminds me what i should be focusing on and it gets right to the point. without the objectives i would be failing the class because i usually forget about homework once i get home. the learning objectives also gets me into the habit of writting down main discussions in class each day.
    so now i want to say thankyou mr. Talbot for writting these learning objectives, because without them i would be in deep s***.

  4. Morgan Nissel8:16 PM

    Having the objective written on the board helps a lot. If I ever get confused on what we were supposed to be getting from a lesson, I can look at the board and see what was most important. It also helps me to focus on that particular objective and not have my mind going a million miles a minute with less important thoughts. My english teacher wrote the objectives on the board last year and it really helped me learn and remember a lot because I could concentrate on the lesson more since I was aware of it beforehand. Continuing to do this will definitely help me out.

    Mr. Talbot,
    I may not talk a lot in class, but I want to let you know that you're an awesome teacher. I'm not trying to be a suck up. I really mean it. :) I believe that you have had a big influence on me as a person in just this past semester. I've already changed so much. So, thank you Mr. Talbot. :)

    -Morgan Nissel

  5. For me, whether or not the objective is written on the board won't affect if I learn the lesson that day. Not to put you on the spotlight, but I think that it's up to the teacher to make sure that, if the students are paying attention, they learn that day. That doesn't mean that having an objective for each day is entirely useless. The learning objective could be used the next day as a bell-work type of question to see if the students understood what the lesson was about the previous day. That would show you, the teacher, where more emphasis is needed and/or how to improve your method of teaching for future lesson plans.

  6. Great answers so far, everybody. Keep it up. It's very enlightening to hear what you have to say because I have my own opinion and never thought objectives meant much of anything. The small sample of answers so far seems to contradict that. Huzzah for learning!

    And thank you very much, Morgan. I very much appreciate the kind words and hope it can continue into second semester.

  7. Bryan Aldana2:44 PM

    For me the learning objective is a good way to find relevance on what were learning. Also there are a lot of times where I want to know why we're learning what we're learning and the objective really helps me understand that concept. The learning objective I see is that me as a student can see what the objective is and determine if the teacher (Mr.T in this case) really did cover all of the objective in the day. So it really helps to see the guidelines of the class and to keep a better understanding of what's going on. In the end I do believe that the learning objective can help me become a better learner not only on one material but to learn how to analyze what the teacher is teaching and begin to learn how to apply that concept somewhere else.

    P.S. Mr.T its already saturday and my neck still hurts man haha but the Metallica concert was worth it. I highly recommend you listen to them and Machinehead too. Its fun discovering new music :)
    -Bryan Aldana (BurritoBryan)

  8. Anonymous9:10 PM

    Caitlin Ahern :) -

    First of, Blogspot Mr. Talbot? Twitter is so much better! Don't stop using your Twitter because of this Blogspot nonesense.

    The learning objectives are surprisngly helpful. I recently noticed it above the daily agenda and now I find myself reading it everyday. It reads something about students understanding Anglo-Saxan culture, right? Anyways yes, it is helpful for me personally. It is important to remind some students what they are to be focusing on. Although I completely dreaded Beowulf I did grasp a greater understanding of Anglo-Saxan culture - the idolization of the hero and inspiration others gained from a hero figure. Having the learning objective on the board reminded me to look for certain Anglo-Saxan cultures found within Beowulf. So good job with the learning objectives, keep it up next semester :)!