Slide 1: Learning targets and advance organizers are used by educators to tell students what they can expect to learn in an upcoming lesson or set of lessons. Their use is based on the idea that students learn better when they know ahead of time what a new lesson or unit is supposed to teach them. This unit describes learning targets and advance organizers and tells how they’re used in the classroom.
Slide 2: Welcome to “Learning Targets and Advance Organizers,” Unit 4 of the module on Helping with Instruction. My name is Kevin Daberkow. I am an educational researcher working for WordFarmers Associates. WordFarmers is producing modules for paraprofessional educators on behalf of the Ohio Partnership for Excellence in Paraprofessional Preparation at the University of Dayton School of Education and Health Sciences Grant Center.
Slide 3: Learning targets are brief, clear statements of short-term goals that students can achieve within one lesson or a set of lessons. Learning targets are sometimes called “I statements” because they use the pronoun “I” to refer to the learner. In the primary grades, a learning target for science might be “I can name and describe the eight planets in our solar system.” Learning targets for older students might not use the “I can” format. For instance, a high school math teacher might have the following as a learning target: “The students will solve linear equations with one unknown.”
Slide 4: Learning targets tell students what they’re expected to know or be able to do by the end of the lesson or unit. They are often based on curriculum standards or learner outcomes, established by the state or a professional organization. Teachers, working in teams, break down the learner outcomes—which may take many lessons for students to master—into smaller, more specific steps or goals. One standard generates many learning targets. A learning progression is a set of sequential learning targets that lead to the accomplishment of a learner outcome or curriculum standard.
Slide 5: Here’s an example of a state learner outcome from the Ohio Department of Education’s curriculum standards. It’s a standard for eighth-grade social studies and is related to the study of the Civil War:
Disputes over the nature of federalism, complicated by economic developments in the United States, resulted in sectional issues, including slavery, which led to the American Civil War.
Slide 6: As you can imagine, many short-term goals must be met before students can achieve this major learner outcome. A teacher might decide, for example, that one thing eighth-grade students need to learn is how to locate historical information on “eye witness account” sites that offer information written by people who were alive at the time of famous events, reflecting this sectionalism and leading up to the Civil War—John Brown’s raid, for example. To frame this learning step in terms that are clear and meaningful to the students, the teacher could write and post a learning target as an “I statement” such as this:
I can use two different “eye-witness to history” web sites to develop a list of facts about John Brown’s raid at Harper’s Ferry.
Slide 7: At the beginning of the lesson to teach students how to find this kind of web site, the teacher would post the learning target and discuss it with the students. As a paraprofessional, if you were helping students work on this assignment, you would call students’ attention to the learning target if you saw that they were reading web sites that did not provide actual eye witness accounts. Referring students to the posted learning target helps them focus on the main ideas covered in the lesson and the expectations for their work.
Slide 8: Advance organizers are different from learning targets in that they provide a framework for the students’ learning of new concepts or skills, rather than a goal toward which the students are to work. Advance organizers are verbal descriptions or graphic representations that preview the main concepts or skills that a lesson or series of lessons will teach.
Slide 9: As a framework for new concepts or skills, an advance organizer does three things:
- It connects the new ideas or skills to ideas or skills the students have already learned.
- It briefly explains new ideas or skills.
- It identifies important relationships between the new ideas or new skills.
Slide 10: In connecting new ideas or skills to ones that students have already learned, the advance organizer provides a meaningful context for the new learning. In briefly explaining or defining new ideas or skills and the relationships between them, it also helps students learn these new ideas or skills more readily as they encounter them in greater detail and complexity in the upcoming lesson or unit.
Slide 11: An advance organizer may take the form of a diagram, list of bullet points, chart, graphic illustration, outline, or narrative that a teacher uses at the beginning of a lesson. An advance organizer for a lesson about John Brown’s raid at Harper’s Ferry, for example, might take the form of an outline or a graphic illustration of the major people, events, or ideas associated with the raid. Whatever form it takes, an advance organizer helps students understand, remember, and apply the new ideas or skills the lesson or unit presents.
Slide 12: The form, as well as the importance, of advance organizers as learning tools depends on what is to be learned and what the student already knows, as well as on students’ preferred learning strategies. Graphic organizers, such as concept maps, for example, may be of particular help to students whose visual and spatial learning strategies are stronger than their verbal learning strategies. Some students who might be overwhelmed by a narrative overview in the form of a long paragraph might benefit from an outline of key concepts or skills. The more complex and unfamiliar the new concepts or skills to be learned, the more important the advance organizer is to student learning.
Slide 13: Learning targets and advance organizers are important tools to orient students to the lesson or unit ahead; however they work in two different ways. For most lessons, both kinds of previews are important, though learning targets are arguably more vital, as they inform students simply and clearly what goal they should work toward. Advance organizers gain in importance as lessons or units increase in complexity.