Characteristics a Examples of Learning Goals at Each Developmental Level: Beginner to Expert, Part 3

Intermediate scales are effective, but can be improved

In this blog, we’ve been talking about learning goals and scales and the phases teachers go through in their development and use. We’ve also been sharing examples (and non-examples) along the way, with the goal of helping teachers and administrators develop a deeper understanding of what they should look like and how they should be used.

This post looks at intermediate scales, which are effective scales but can be improved.

Here’s what we know about learning goals and scales at the intermediate stage:

1.  Learning goals are usually expressed in one of the two following forms: Students will understand or Students will be able to

Teachers now recognize they can use more specific words in their learning goals than understand or be able to. As they use more precise verbs, the goals and scales become better.

Webb’s DOK suggests the following verbs for each level:

Table 1

Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4
• Identify
• Recite
• List
• Recognize
• Report
• Match
• Define
• Recall
• Who, What, When, Where, Why

• Categorize
• Relate
• Investigate
• Show
• Compare
• Estimate
• Summarize
• Classify
• Predict
• Construct

• Revise
• Investigate
• Assess
• Develop
• Construct
• Relate
• Develop logical argument
• Differentiate
• Draw conclusions

• Design
• Connect
• Synthesize
• Critique
• Analyze
• Create
• Prove

2.  Scales are a learning progression.

3.  Scales are good for one or two days rather than one to three weeks.

4.  Teachers feel they must create a hundred or more scales for the whole year in each subject area, rather than 24 two-week scales.

5.  Scales consist of a learning progression, guided by a taxonomy of knowledge — Marzano’s or Bloom’s, or Webb’s (see Table 2 below). The lower levels of the scale match up with the lower ends of the taxonomy.

Table 2

Taxonomy Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4
Marzano retrieval



knowledge utilization











skills and concepts

strategic thinking

extended thinking

Scales are constructed progressing from the lower levels of the taxonomy to the higher levels.

6. Teachers are starting to see that monitoring, and tracking student progress along a learning progression, are two different processes. Monitoring is important for checking on students, and the effectiveness of an instructional strategy, but different from measuring student progress on a learning progression along a scale.

7. Teachers realize a progression of learning is hierarchical in nature and increases in cognitive complexity — from Level 1 to Level 4 — and are learning how to construct and use them.

8. Teachers at this stage write goals and scales more for adults than for students; the students are not personalizing their own learning objectives.

Learning Goal: Students will be able to explain the events leading to the American Revolutionary War.


4.0  Students will be able to compare and contrast the events leading to the American Revolutionary War with the events leading to the French Revolution.

3.0.  Students will be able to explain the events leading to the American Revolutionary War.

2.0  Students will be able to recall a few of the conflicts between the colonies and Great Britain.

1.0  Students will be able to recall the relationship between the colonies and Britain.

At the intermediate stage, learning goals and scales are no longer about monitoring and the scale depicts a progression of learning. They are not robust enough, they’re still too short term, and they’re designed more for adults than for students.

Next week, when we look at excellent learning goals and scales, we will see some good examples!

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