In education, there is a large emphasis placed on standards for education and ensuring that students can meet those standards. This lesson will explain how you can design your instruction around those standards using learning objectives and student goals.
Government Standards Defined
Let's imagine that you're put in charge of building something. When you get the job, you're given a bunch of tools and equipment that your boss says you will need for the project. However, your boss doesn't tell you several key pieces of information, including what it should look like, how it should function, and how you'll know if you built it successfully.
Teaching without standards is a lot like the situation we just described. Standards are issued by a governing body, usually the state, to tell schools and teachers what students should know and be able to demonstrate at certain points in their education. Without these standards, everyone would be teaching different skills, without any idea what skills students should be able to demonstrate.
This lesson will briefly describe standards and their importance. It'll also detail some of the strategies you can use to design your instruction around standards using learning objectives and student goals.
Educational Standards and You
Ms. Appleby is a brand new student teacher, excited to finish her degree and become certified. Through her college courses, Ms. Appleby learned about the newest research-based theories of education and teaching. She learned about government standards and their importance for her teaching career.
However, shortly after beginning to plan lessons for her student teaching experience, Ms. Appleby realized she actually understood very little about implementing state standards. Suddenly, she was tasked with designing lesson after lesson and aligning each one with a set of standards for the grade she was teaching. While she'd totally understood them in theory, putting the standards into practice was quite a different thing.
With the renewed interest in educational standards and standards-based testing, many teachers are in a similar position as Ms. Appleby. You might be in a similar position. The first thing you, other teachers, and Ms. Appleby should do is research your state's educational standards. This should be as simple as typing your state's name plus 'education standards' into an internet browser search bar. Familiarize yourself with the standards so the following strategies will make more sense to you.
Your next step in designing instruction around standards is to translate them into learning objectives. There is a good chance that your school or district uses a teaching program that aligns all of their activities and information with standards, but writing your own instructional objectives is key for ensuring that you are really teaching the skills laid out by the educational standards.
For example, let's say you teach in the state of Pennsylvania, which uses what's called the 'PA Core Standards'. One of the second grade reading comprehension standards is 'Differentiate fact from opinion within a text.' This is a broad skill that can be applied to many activities. Therefore, when you're designing instruction to teach fact and opinion, you should write a learning objective to help focus your teaching on the standard.
A learning objective for an activity designed around that standard might read 'Students will find 5 facts and 5 opinions in the weekly story and write them into a graphic organizer.' Learning objectives state what students will do, what skill they're using, and how they'll demonstrate their understanding. Using learning objectives helps ensure that your instruction is standards-based and focusing students on what you want them to learn.
Like the builder who needs to know what their end product should look like and how it should function, teachers and students need long-term goals in mind to drive instruction. Learning objectives are great for short-term goals, like day-to-day lessons and activities, but only student goals can show you whether anyone has learned anything and mastered the necessary skills.
Educational standards are basically student goals, but put into very simple words. The goal stated by the previously described standard is for students to be able to differentiate fact and opinion within a text by the end of second grade. Each standard is written in a similar way, stating a broad skill students need to have mastered by the end of their current grade.
Designing instruction around these goals is integral if you want to help students master the skills in the standards. Each and every one of your lessons and activities should be tied to a standard. If they aren't, students might be learning something, but you can't really show what. When writing lesson plans, if you can't relate your learning objective and activity to a specific standard, it's time to start over.
A builder works from blueprints that show them what the final product should look like. You work from standards that show you a picture of what a student's knowledge should be at the end of the semester and/or year. You should then move backwards from that picture to ensure that the actual students you teach meet the standards set forth for them.
Let's take a few moments to briefly recap what we've learned about designing instruction around government standards and student goals. Educational standards are a list of skills issued by a governing body telling schools and teachers what students should have mastered at specific points in their education. This governing body is usually the state in which you reside, so familiarizing yourself with your state's standards is really important for you to do as a teacher. In addition, you should be writing learning objectives for everything students do in the classroom, and keeping long-term student goals in mind when designing instruction will ensure that your students will meet the standards at the end of the school year.