Determining why and what

Clarifying the purpose and reason for conducting the lesson is the first and most crucial step towards a learning-focused lesson.

Learning goals/ intentions

Learning goals/ intentions state what students will know, understand or be able to do by the end of a lesson and are central to effective teaching and learning. Explicit and well-worded learning goals/ intentions benefit students when they understand what they are learning and what is expected.

To clarify the purpose of the lesson, consider certain questions and collaborate with students.

Consider questions like:

  • Is it a need determined from assessment information?
  • What prior learning has occurred and what do the students already know?
  • Where does the lesson fit into the learning sequence/unit plan?
  • Is it pre-learning for the next lesson in the sequence?
  • Why do students need to learn this?
  • Is the learning relevant in students’ lives?
  • When might students use or need this learning?

Discuss with the students:

  • why they are learning this at all
  • how the learning is relevant in their lives and when they might use or need this learning
  • how the learning/lesson fits into the bigger picture of their learning.

A learning intention is simply a description of what you want your students to know, understand or be able to do by the end of a lesson. It tells students what the focus for learning is going to be. The learning goal/ intention needs to focus clearly on the knowledge, understandings and skills being targeted without getting side-tracked by the activity or the context.

  • Knowledge is factual information, for example, the parts of a plant, key events of World War One
  • Understanding typically concerns concepts, reasons or processes – the need for a healthy diet, the difference between convection, conduction and radiation
  • Skills are proficiencies, dexterities or abilities acquired through training or experience – applying techniques, drawing conclusions based on evidence, using a multiplication grid, collaboration
  • Lesson learning intentions/goals should:
    • contribute towards the achievement of syllabus outcomes
    • identify a specific ‘chunk’ of learning required for students to achieve the global learning intentions from the learning sequence or unit plan
    • focus on generic, transferable skills
    • focus on the learning rather than the activity
    • be expressed in language that students understand
    • be shared with students at the outset.

Effective learning goals/intentions

Learning intentions are most effective when they focus on the learning rather than activity or task, for example:

We are learning to…   use research skills to gather information
We are learning to…   research information about pandas.

The first learning intention above makes it clear that the students are learning research skills, which they can then transfer to other learning contexts or situations.

When writing lesson learning intentions/goals it is also useful to separate the activity, from the learning intention/goal and the context. The activity is what the students will be doing while the context is the vehicle for the learning. For example:

Activity Learning intention Context
Give a speech for or against smoking To present a point of view in a persuasive way Speech about smoking
Draw a bar chart to show how pupils in or class come to school To present information graphically Bar chart on types of transport used to get to school
Work effectively in a group to design a leaflet to promote healthy eating To be able to work effectively in a group Healthy eating leaflet
Write a letter to the local MP about culling kangaroos To present an argument for or against Letter about culling kangaroos
Complete a worksheet on multiplication Multiply whole numbers Worksheet

Learners learn best when they understand what they are learning and what is expected of them.

At the beginning of the lesson, it is important to share the specific learning intention/goal and explain how it contributes to the achievement of the global intention/goals in the learning sequence/unit plan. This helps students see the ‘big picture’, make connections, understand the purpose of, and reasons for, the lesson.

When learning intentions are shared and discussed with students they are more likely to be:

  • focused for longer periods of time
  • motivated
  • involved in and responsible for their learning.

Tips for sharing learning intentions/goals:

  • Where possible give a real-life rationale for the learning.
  • Ask students to think about where else they could use the learning.
  • Display the learning intention so that it can be referred to during the lesson.
  • Use a flip chart to build up the specific learning intentions and show students how they are progressing towards the global learning intention.
  • Have students record the learning intention in a journal or learning log.
  • Make a laminated wall chart to display the learning intention/goal that can be changed each day.
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