The Barack Obama approach to target setting.

“Yes, we can!”

Actually Bob the Builder got there first. But you knew that anyway, didn’t you?

Anyway, back to target setting.

People like to be able to recognise what they have achieved. It’s why people like me write to do lists at the beginning of a Saturday, and then add on what I actually did that wasn’t on the list somewhere around 3pm, just to reassure myself that although I didn’t do what was (originally) on the list, there are lots of other things that I did do.

Students also like to recognise what they are doing. They like to be told what they are doing and the more this is broken down, the more items they are able to tick off on their academic ‘to do’ list. More importantly, they like to recognise what they HAVE done.

Target setting works in many ways.

There is the ‘all/most/some will be able to’ model, which is beneficial in that it is manifestly differentiated, but, in my opinion, problematic in that many of the ‘all’ who don’t achieve the ‘most’ objective, let alone the ‘some’ target, somehow end up feeling that although they’ve learned something in that lesson it’s not really good enough. Which might in turn leave them disinclined to reach for something which has been shown to be an unlikely dream.

Many of the PowerPoint lessons which I find on teachers’ resource sites start with the rather anodyne “LO: to be able to…” or vague reordering of what the teacher intends to teach, rather than a student-friendly objective. Dullsville, Dullsland.

My preference is for the objective to open with the statement: ‘I can…’. What follows should be something that the students absolutely CANNOT do at the point at which they write down their objective. At the end of the lesson, the attention of the class can be directed to the statement, written and kept on the board, so that each student can see that they can now do something which they could not do when they walked through the door.

Young people like to recognise that they have learned something, made progress, furthered their understanding to some degree. This is clearly easier to effect in some subjects than others. In languages, for instance, it is easy to quantify whereas you could count up to 31 in Spanish in the last lesson, by the end of today you can say when your birthday is and how old you are. In Maths, if you have taught a class a method of doing division, then it is unlikely that you will be embarking on a separate piece of knowledge so that the ‘I can’  statement will focus on how the student can use the prior learning.

So in the MFL classroom, the LZ (Lernziel) in Year 7 in November might be “I can say when my birthday is,” at the end of the lesson a child can be asked “Can you?” and they will answer, verbally or in writing: “7th May” or “on the 7th May” or “my birthday is on the 7th May” or “my birthday is on the 7th May. And you? When is yours?” encouraged by their Strictly Positive Teacher to expand their answer to the limit of their ability in that utterance, but everyone ‘can’.

That Maths teacher might have written “I can solve at least 4 problems using the new long division method”, the Geography teacher “I can explain what a continental crust is”, and so forth. (You can tell I’m on dodgy ground here, can’t you? Not my areas of expertise…)

The important thing is that you can challenge a student at the end of the lesson and that they can respond to that challenge. They leave your room with a sense of achievement. They have done something important with that 50 minutes. They have a happy memory of your lesson.

In a Strictly Positive Teacher’s classroom it is essential that a student achieves, explicitly recognises their own achievements, and expects to achieve the next time they come into the classroom.

Can we do that? Yes, we can!

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