The readings for this week in EDU 6526 – Survey of Instructional Strategies – focused on setting and communicating clear objectives for students and giving timely and detailed feedback on student work and ideas. Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, and Stone (2012) claim that objectives are important in education, as they link what students are doing in class to what students are actually supposed to learn. While to the teacher it may seem obvious, clearly stating the objective in both written and oral form allow students to clearly make the link between what is done and what is to be learned. The authors also state that feedback can help students “confirm, refine, or restructure various kinds of knowledge” (Dean et al, 2012, p. 3). In my own practice, I would consider setting objectives something I have worked on with great improvement, while providing students with feedback would be an area in which I would like to grow more.
In my experience as a student teacher, objectives were highly emphasized. My mentor teacher used objectives as titles for the lessons in order to better remember what students were to come away with at the end of the lesson. The objectives were posted on the board in the back, too, in second-grade language, sometimes denoting new vocabulary in a different color marker. Those words on the board, in and of themselves, were a great reminder to the teacher to stay on course and to keep the end goal in mind. The trouble I had, though, was trying to ensure students were on board with our target – that students were “getting it” and knew what we were doing and why. Using objectives as a tool for students, as well as for me as a teacher, can help everyone be on the same page in their understanding of what we are teaching and learning for the lesson. For me, writing objectives has been a good practice in how to plan units that align to Common Core – Dean et al state that “teachers must ‘unpack’ the statements of knowledge in their standards document to drill down to more specific statements of knowledge and skills” (2012, p. 5). This unpacking process allows me to organize the missions of each lesson in a way that better guides students to the overall goal of the unit: meeting the standard. Objectives are better, according to Dean et al, when students are informed of the objectives and can personally set their own objectives. While I have become much better at communicating objectives and having students discuss what the targets mean, I must improve on having students “buy in” to the objectives, possibly by better linking them to what students want to learn.
Feedback is an area in which I struggle. I want students to have a great deal of practice in what they are learning, so giving in-depth and timely feedback on what the turn in to me can be difficult. Dean et al (2012) recommend that feedback given to students be specific and timely: lets students know what they did correctly and on what they still need to work, references specific criteria such as rubrics, and comes in time to fix their misunderstandings before the confusion become integrated in their understanding. My next step in improving the feedback I give to students will be to create rubrics that specifically lay out what I expect of students in order to receive a given grade. This way, students will have more specific goals to reach a certain grade and know what is expected of them, but I will also be able to use it as a reference in discussing student understanding with the students and their parents. Pitler and Stone (2012) discuss a website called Rubistar in their vignette on criterion-referenced feedback. Rubistar allows teacher to create rubrics based on templates, making it simpler to give students the expectations and comment based on the same expectations for all students. This tool will be going into my bookmarked pages in order to use it this upcoming school year.
Dean, C. B., Hubbell, E. R., Pitler, H., & Stone, B. (2012). Classroom instruction that works: 2nd edition. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Pitler, H. & Stone, B. (2012). A handbook for classroom instruction that works: 2nd edition. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.