3 Types of Learning Targets

3 Types of Learning Targets

An excerpt from Creating & Using Learning Targets & Performance Scales: How Teachers Make Better Instructional Decisions, by Carla Moore, Libby H. Garst, and Robert J. Marzano


To learn more about this topic, click here to join Carla Moore for a webinar on November 14.


Learning targets and performance scales are tools that can help you become more efficient and effective in designing and delivering instruction.

These tools will help both you and your students focus on the progression of instruction through lessons and units. In the beginning, the process may seem cumbersome, but like any type of procedural knowledge, practice will soon produce fluency.

Three Types of Learning Targets

1) Learning Goal Targets

Learning goal targets are statements of the knowledge and skills students need to demonstrate mastery of a standard. They are derived directly from state or national academic standards and identify what students should know and be able to do by the end of a grade or course. Unpacking individual standards will provide the information needed to create daily or weekly learning targets that include the content focus, cognitive level of thinking, and precise language necessary to delineate learning goal targets.

2) Foundational Targets

Foundational targets consist of knowledge and basic processes that build to the cognitive level of the academic standard. They constitute the prerequisites that students need to master to ultimately achieve the learning goal targets. There are two types of foundational targets: 1) those that identify declarative knowledge and 2) those that identify procedural knowledge.

Foundational Targets for Declarative Knowledge

These targets identify the academic vocabulary that is essential for learning the standard. To identify the essential academic vocabulary to be targeted, ask the following questions: Do students need to know the word or term to demonstrate an under standing of the standard? Did students learn this word or term in a previous grade or class?

If the answer to the first question is yes, the term should be considered a potential vocabulary word to be targeted. However, if the answer to the second question is also yes, unless the term is being used in a different capacity from how it was used in previous grades or classes, it should not be a target. The term might need to be reviewed and discussed at some point, but it is not considered new knowledge and therefore should not be considered a foundational target.

Foundational Targets for Procedural Knowledge

Foundational targets also include any basic skills or processes students must perform to attain the learning goal target. These are the processes or skills that provide the underpinning for future targets and must be achieved before students can be successful with the current learning goal target. Ask the following questions to identify the essential skills or processes that need to be targeted: What do students need to be able to do before they can meet the learning goal target? Did students learn this skill or process in a previous grade or class?

After answering the first question and listing the foundational skills and processes required, consider the answer to the second question. Just as with the vocabulary, if the answer to the second question is yes, then students may need a brief review of previous skills and processes. However, do not consider these prerequisite skills to be foundational targets. Unless the skill is being presented or used in a different capacity, it is not considered new. Only new skills required to build toward the cognitive complexity of the learning goal target should be categorized as foundational targets.

3) Cognitively Complex Targets

These targets are created to help students extend and deepen the knowledge and skills of the standard. The expectations in these targets are more rigorous than the learning goal targets in a standard. This category of learning targets requires deeper thinking than the standard requires and expects that students will think about the same content in more complex ways. In other words, cognitively complex targets ask students to use the knowledge and skills of the standard to extend their thinking and make applications beyond what is set forth in the standard.


3 Types of Learning Targets