Clear Learning Goals Set Students Up for Success (Part 1)

The Power of Dr. Marzano’s Design Question 1

As teachers across the country embark on a new school year, it’s the perfect time to reflect on the power of clearly defining learning goals so students know what they are learning and why. Design Question 1 in Dr. Marzano’s Teacher Evaluation Model incorporates specific strategies to achieve just that:

• Providing Clear Learning Goals and Scales
• Tracking Student Progress
• Celebrating Success

When a classroom teacher embraces these strategies and involves students in an authentic way, the combination can boost student success, invigorate the teaching/learning process, and create a classroom culture where students take more responsibility for their own learning. 

An important step in utilizing this trio of Marzano strategies is to use the standards or benchmarks of your curriculum to write learning goals that communicate the essence of the standards in a way that is meaningful to students.  Use the following guidelines as you practice writing learning goals that will drive your instruction and will be most beneficial to your students.

1. Learning Goals for Two Kinds of Knowledge
Write learning goals that communicate what students need declarative and procedural knowledge rather than statements that communicate the activities students will do to reach the goal.  Keeping this distinction in mind will give direction to the day-to-day activities and assignments that you design for students and provide a clear intention for student learning.

2. Keep Goals Specific
To gain the maximum impact on student achievement, write goals that specifically target the intended learning rather than goals that are too broad or general.  It is best to aim for the middle ground here as the intent is not to overwhelm yourself with too many goals, but to make them specific enough that students have a clear understanding of the target.

3. Aim for Moderate Difficulty
Consider the level of difficulty the learning goals will present for your students.  Research fully supports that students are most motivated by goals that are moderately difficult; attainable, but not too easy nor too difficult.  If you are teaching a diverse group of learners, it may be valuable to write learning goals at more than one level of difficulty.

4. Monitor Student Understanding
Use language that is student-friendly and think about how you will monitor student understanding of the goals.  The intent of the strategy is not just that you have a goal posted, rather that students fully understand what the goal means for their learning.

5. Know What “Mastery” Looks Like
Talk with your colleagues about what mastery of the goal looks like for students. Having a clear picture in your mind about how students will demonstrate that mastery will enable you to design learning and assessment tasks that match the intent of the learning goal.

6. Get Student Input
Involve your students in writing and/or revising goals so that they fully understand the target and are invested in the learning process that will be guided by the goal.

The start of school is just around the corner.  As you re-engage yourself in the delight a new group of students will bring, focus your thoughts on how you can make the standards you will teach meaningful to each child.  This first step of Design Question 1 holds great power to make this year a great success for your students. 

In my next post, I’ll focus on creating the scales that will accompany your goals as a means to provide feedback on student performance.  Enjoy your last days of summer!

How do you make standards meaningful for your individual students? Please share your ideas in the comments section. Or ask us a question and we’ll do our best to work it through with you.

For further information about teacher growth and student achievement, visit Marzano Center

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