Teaching approaches: Learning objectives

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Teaching Approaches

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Readers may find the file Sharing Learning Objectives and Outcomes particularly useful for thinking about their use of Learning Objectives. Well written Learning Objectives may involve differentiated outcomes, which highlight core concepts for pupils to engage with. It is often useful to show students these objectives, so that they understand where they're at, and where they're going in their learning. Teachers should consider whether the tasks they are setting and planning for will allow learning to occur, rather than considering what learning may occur from the tasks (although of course there is normally a bit of both). It may be useful to think about particular 'Talking Points' around the learning objectives, questions that might be asked, and misconceptions to deal with.

What is effective questioning?
With respect to questioning, it should be born in mind that questioning is effective when it allows pupils to engage with the learning process by actively composing responses. Research (Borich 1996; Muijs and Reynolds 2001; Morgan and Saxton 1994; Wragg and Brown 2001) suggests that lessons where questioning is effective are likely to have the following characteristics

  • Questions are planned and closely linked to the objectives of the lesson.
  • The learning of basic skills is enhanced by frequent questions following the exposition of new content that has been broken down into small steps. Each step should be followed by guided practice that provides opportunities for pupils to consolidate what they have learned and that allows teachers to check understanding.
  • Closed questions are used to check factual understanding and recall.
  • Open questions predominate.
  • Sequences of questions are planned so that the cognitive level increases as the questions go on. This ensures that pupils are led to answer questions which demand increasingly higher-order thinking skills but are supported on the way by questions which require less sophisticated thinking skills.
  • Pupils have opportunities to ask their own questions and seek their own answers. They are encouraged to provide feedback to each other.
  • The classroom climate is one where pupils feel secure enough to take risks, be tentative and make mistakes. (Adapted from Questioning Research Summary, section What).

How do questions engage pupils and promote responses?
Using questioning effectively involves planning in two ways, first, in terms of thinking about the sorts of questions you might ask, and any Differentiation which might go into those. Second, in terms of building a classroom environment which is conducive to effective Questioning and high quality Dialogue.Pupil response is enhanced where

  • there is a classroom climate in which pupils feel safe and know they will not be criticised or ridiculed if they give a wrong answer;
  • prompts are provided to give pupils confidence to try an answer;
  • there is a ‘no-hands’ approach to answering, where you choose the respondent rather than have them volunteer;
  • ‘wait time’ is provided before an answer is required. The research suggests that 3 seconds is about right for most questions, with the proviso that more complex questions may need a longer wait time. Research shows that the average wait time in classrooms is about 1 second (Rowe 1986; Borich 1996). (Adapted from Questioning Research Summary, section How).

Relevant resources


Assessment Using Assessment to Raise Achievement in Maths
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Learning goals; self & peer assessment; effecting questioning; marking and case studies
This resource explores approaches to assessment(ta) in maths, including the sharing of learning objectives(ta), group work(ta), whole class(ta) assessment, questioning(ta) and more. Four case studies serve as useful discussion prompts to share practice(ta). This .doc version of the QCA's 'Using assessment(ta) to Raise Achievement in Maths' allows schools to select parts of the document that are most relevant to them.
CPD Establishing Purpose for Writing
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Why do we have to write it down? Thinking about why we write...
This resource highlights some key types of text, and asks teachers to think about the key texts and language(ta) in their own subjects, and how tasks can be well designed to illicit purposeful writing in their classroom practice. Teachers should consider learning objectives(ta) for purposeful writing.
CPD Giving Written Feedback
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Effective methods for written feedback
This resource discusses written feedback in the context of assessment(ta) and giving clear learning objectives(ta) from any feedback given. While such feedback is often on homework(ta), the resource is intended more broadly than that.
CPD Understanding the Purposes of Explanations
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Explaining why we explain - Thinking about how explanations are used in the classroom
This resource focuses on 'explanation' in relation to learning objectives(ta), concept and process learning, and engaging higher order(ta) reasoning(ta) skills.
CPD Sharing Learning Objectives and Outcomes
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What will they achieve - outcomes, objectives, and their importance
This resource highlights the link between learning objectives(ta) and assessment(ta) for learning, and explores ways to engage in planning(ta) for, and write good learning objectives - which identify the learning to take place, as opposed to just the activity with which the pupils will engage.
Force Moving and falling objects
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Understanding moving and falling objects as well as progression through the years
This published article explores the sorts of objectives(ta) they should be meeting, and the questioning(ta) teachers may engage in. The activities, aimed at progressively older children, engage them in inquiry(ta) based learning. The article explores how increasingly complex topics may be taught, and how teachers can ensure that children have a good grasp of a topic. There are suggestions for further reading to extend the primary teacher's knowledge of the area. Some of the suggestions appear in a related resource Progression & questioning techniques in primary science projects
Learning objectives Writing Learning Objectives in Primary Science
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How are learning objectives supposed to work? How can one achieve mastery in writing learning objectives?
This resource encourages teachers to think about ways to link learning objectives(ta) to the curriculum which also helps to conceptualise their teaching schemes. It also helps children to understand what they are learning and what they are aiming for. The resource brings together key ideas, looking at specific outcomes from activities, vocabulary(ta), differentiation(ta), resources and curriculum development(topic) and short term planning(ta). It could be used as a 'refresher' on ideas when planning lessons.
Progression Progression and questioning techniques in primary science projects
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Measuring force and measuring progress.
This resource provides an overview of the Year 6 scheme of work - 6E Forces in action and includes some experiment examples. The experiments could be run in class, with increasingly advanced objectives(i) including students' use of language(ta), the factors they discuss, the way they use equipment, assessment(i), etc. This resource can work as standalone lesson ideas / science projects /inquiry(i), or to illustrate progression of concepts through a scheme of work or curriculum planning(i) document.
Progression Developing Progression in Primary Science
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Progression and the wonders of 'one-ness' and 'two-ness'
A first part on ‘developing progression in science investigations’ could be used to prompt discussion on how far we expect pupils to develop, and the sorts of inquiry(ta) which encourage this.

The second part, 'indicators of Level 1 and 2ness', provides a useful set of criteria for assessing national curriculum levels. These criteria prompt thinking about assessment(ta) levels in curriculum development(topic). A concrete outcome of the activity may be to keep such criteria in a mark book for day-to-day use.

Questioning Questioning
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Why Question? A unit exploring the use of questioning in your classroom
This resource discusses questioning(ta) and its relationship to engaging reasoning(ta), active learning(ta) and discussion(ta) as well as aspects of planning(ta) such as writing learning objectives(ta).