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As educators, we know the necessity that each and every lesson is focused by a measurable and achievable learning outcome. Whether you call it a learning intention, a learning goal, an objective, or something else doesn’t matter. What matters is that your students are clear in each and every lesson what they are learning and how they will show that they have learned it.
The “what” and the “how show” are the essence of a measurable and achievable learning outcome. Without them a learning outcome is not measurable or achievable, nor will it focus students on their goal for learning. And, a measurable and achievable learning outcome is the cornerstone of a focused lesson that develops student ownership.
The Value of the “What” and the “How Show”
Experts tell us again and again how imperative learning outcomes with demonstrations are for student achievement. In Visible Learning, John Hattie emphasizes the importance of “clearly communicating the intentions of the lessons and the criteria for success. Teachers need to know the goals and success criteria of their lessons, know how well all students in their class are progressing, and know where to go next.”
But, the value is not only for the teachers. Hattie goes on to underscore the value of students clearly understanding the learning outcome.
“The first question relates to goals—that is: ‘Where am I going?’ This means that teachers need to know, and communicate to students, the goals of the lesson—hence the importance of learning intentions and success criteria. What seems surprising is that many students cannot articulate the goals of the lesson: at best, their goals are performance-related: ‘finish the task,’ ‘make it neat,’ ‘include as many resources as possible.’ Rarely are the goals mastery-related: ‘understand the content,’ ‘master the skill.’ Targets can make a difference.”
In other words, when teachers communicate with their students what skill they are learning and how they will show or demonstrate they have learned it, it increases students’ probability of learning in that lesson.
So, how do we write measurable and achievable learning outcomes for students?
How to Write a Learning Outcome that Is Measurable and Achievable
When writing learning outcomes, it is helpful to realize there are two key components.
First, there is the “what skill.” This identifies what specific skill or content the students will be learning.
Second, there is the “how show.” This identifies what students will need to demonstrate or produce to show they have learned.
These can be written separately or combined in one statement. As you can see from the following examples, the format of the learning outcome can vary from classroom to classroom, teacher to teacher, but there should always be a “what” and a “how show.”
- Students will be able to explain how to solve word problems within 20 involving situations of adding to when they work with a partner, draw their solutions, and explain their thinking to the whole class. (Grade 1 Mathematics)
- Students will explain what the text says explicitly and draw inferences in order to complete their note-taking organizer on the text Harriet Ross Tubman for sections 3-4. (Grade 4 English Language Arts)
- What: Analyze and cite textual evidence from the NASA video “Earth’s Water Cycle.”
How Show: Complete your video note-taking organizer. Use notes to develop a model with descriptions to show global movements of water and the relationship to sunlight and gravity based on the information provided in the video. (Grade 7 Science)
- Students will show their mastery of citing textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources by accurately completing the Cornell Notes for the article, “Gorbachev and the United States.” (High School World History)
These are just a few examples. You can try out the following templates to write measurable and achievable outcomes for your lessons and decide which format best fits your students’ learning needs.
Remember, the format you decide to use when writing a measurable and achievable learning outcome is not of high importance. What is important is that:
- The identified skill or content is driven by a standard.
- The demonstration is measurable and achievable.
- Learning outcomes are written in a consistent format for your classroom.
- They are presented consistently at the beginning and revisited throughout the lesson.
- They are presented in a variety of ways, in print, orally, read chorally, restated by students, etc. to ensure all learners are clear on them.
- They are used to drive the lesson – all instruction is thoughtfully designed to ensure student achievement of the learning outcome.
How to Develop Student Ownership
When we visit classrooms, we ask both teachers and students, “What are you learning?” Frequently, the teachers are certain of the learning intentions of a lesson, what they want students to learn and how they will know if students learned it.
However, when asking students, this is not usually true. Many students can state the task in front of them and what they need to complete by the end of the lesson. But few can articulate what specific skill or content they are learning and what they will need to produce or demonstrate by the end of the lesson to show that they have learned it.
This is a missed opportunity.
It is not enough that the teachers know the “what” and the “how show.” They must share the learning outcome with their students so that the students know and can articulate them.
When students are clear about the measurable and achievable learning outcome, they…
- Know what they are supposed to learn during the lesson and how they will demonstrate their learning.
- Develop an ability to assess themselves as they progress towards the learning demonstration.
- Monitor their own learning and develop the skills to request additional support as needed to achieve the learning outcome.
Measurable and achievable learning outcomes, shared between teachers and students, increase the probability of learning and student ownership of learning. Without clearly identified learning targets, students are more likely to get lost in a lesson and can be left guessing what the teacher will determine is a success. With them, students can move from passengers in learning to active participants.
The Learning Brief
In this article you learned…
- When teachers communicate with their students what skill they are learning and how they will show or demonstrate they have learned it, it increases students’ probability of learning.
- A measurable and achievable learning outcome has two key components: 1) The “what skill” that identifies what specific skill or content the students will be learning 2) The “how show” that identifies what students will need to demonstrate or produce to show they have learned.
- It is not enough that the teachers know the “what” and the “how show.” They must share the learning outcome with their students so that the students know and can articulate them.
Can you imagine building an environment full of motivated, engaged, and eager students who own their learning?