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Do learning objectives stifle students' learning?!

Hello colleagues, A recent blog post by Melanie Ralph, a high school English teacher in Australia, suggests that making learning goals explicit to students has the potential to stifle learning. Aren't we supposed to make learning objectives explicit? Do you make the objectives clear to learners at the outset of your instruction?

Ralph's ideas are interesting, and I appreciated some of the quotes included in this article. For example:

  •  Researcher, Shirley Clarke: “Although the learning objective might be appropriate at the beginning of the lesson (often in mathematics), its appearance before [learners'] interest is captured can kill their interest.”

  • Author and lecturer, Alfie Kohn:  "Learning Goals 'resemble ‘training’ rather than genuine education' and that 'even if a teacher has specific learning goals in mind before a lesson, which any good teacher does, why in the world would we dictate them to students rather than having students participate in the process of formulating them and deciding together what we’re going to explore?'”

  • Education philosopher, John Dewey: "...the role of the teacher is 'to keep alive the sacred spark of wonder and to fan the flame that already glows…to protect the spirit of inquiry, to keep it from becoming blasé from overexcitement, wooden from routine, fossilized through dogmatic instruction, or dissipated by random exercise upon trivial things.'"

You can also find a funny video on the site which parodies what can happen when teachers do not state learning objectives up front.  

Check out this provocative article and let us know what you think.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, Teaching & Learning CoP

 

 

Comments

lclark's picture
Ten

Hi Susan,

I'm interested in this topic, but can't seem to find the link. Am I missing something obvious?

Thanks!

Susan Finn Miller's picture
One hundred

Thanks for the heads up, Lisa. I've added the link.

Susan

S Jones's picture
One hundred

What is our *big* objective?   

I like to frame things in terms of Universal Design For Learning -- multiple ways of engagement,  different ways to represent what I'm trying to convey... different ways for students to express their knowledge.  

Sometimes my students need an objective before they'll engage, and ... engagement is a priority.   
Also... if my objective is something grand and/or abstract ... then I'm not giving things away.   If the objective is to be able to represent multiplication in different ways, I'm still leaving lots of doors open. 

These quotes are from folks who are trying to keep children's interest... sometimes my adults really do want *training.*   They don't have time for piquing their interest...   (Last night I wanted to know how to do the macarena.   I found a video that explained it.   Objective met.   Wouldn't make sense not to know my objective ahead of time...) 

S Jones's picture
One hundred

(that said, in the bigger picture -- there are lofty goals to get people out of the framework that they need to be trained to do somebody else's bidding.   In that case... objectives are best explored and invented...) 

Susan Finn Miller's picture
One hundred

Hello Susan, I take both of your points. Both are valid. Adults are very goal-oriented for sure, so sharing learning objectives that are in line with learners' own goals is appropriate. As a teacher, I want to make it clear how any learning objective is related to larger goals learners have for themselves.

At the same time, I think your second point about the act of training learners to do other people's bidding is in line with the author's arguments. I agree that there are times when "objectives are best explored and invented."

Thanks for your contributions to this thread, Susan. It would be great to hear from others.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, Teaching & Learning CoP

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