Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Instead of Content Objectives, how about Process Objectives?


One movement I've seen sweeping through every district I've worked in is the content objectives movement. In case it's not happening near you, this is when teachers are expected to post the content objectives each day for their students to easily see. These might look like this:

Language Objectives
1. Students will learn about how descriptive language paints a picture for the reader.

Math Objectives
1. Students will learn the formula for the solving the area of a triangle.
2. Students will learn how to determine the slope of a given line.

These are just some quick examples of the types of content objectives that are most likely posted in thousands of classrooms across the nation as I type this. I am a big fan of objectives, objective writing, and creating paths to mastering objectives (especially a big fan when students are able to write their own....but that's another post).

But what would a classroom look like if it shifted away from content objectives toward process objectives? How would business be conducted each day? How would it impact student assessment? How would it help blur the rigid boundaries of subjects we currently work within? How could it open things up? It's an interesting thing to think about. Consider these types of objectives:

1. Students will debate their ideas in an effort to build common ground.
2. Students will build a model of their thinking.
3. Students will work together to uncover myths and misconceptions.
4. Students will tear apart and rebuild an idea/object/argument.

These are intentionally wide-open, just to start thinking about how these kinds of posted objectives could impact a classroom. With these kinds of objectives, students are forced into action. Students are forced to think. Students are forced to make decisions. Students are forced to fail, problem solve, and attempt to solve. Students are given choice and freedom. Teachers would be forced to let go. Teachers would be forced to authentically assess processes instead of straight content (not nearly as easy...).

Would your students be more engaged if process objectives were the norm instead of content objectives?

1 comment:

Ms. crawford said...

I like your idea; however, in our district here in Las Vegas, Nevada, admin. seem to feel these kinds of objectives lack the specificity they want, and they seem to be requiring the standards or paraphrased parts of standards. We are also being required to write them on the board, but we also have to literally speak them out loud, and students are asked the typical,
"What are you learning today?" questions.
I understand students needing to know the why, but when they are engaging in a Socratic Seminar and are asked what they are doing and they demonstrate AND respond that they are sharing different perspectives on an essay they read to get better understanding, this answer was considered an epic failure by my admin. If the students are engaged and are demonstrating higher order thinking and level 4 depth of knowledge, how can this be a failure just because the teacher and student didn't formally speak some standard. They were performing the standards and applying their skills to a complicated text. Sadly, none of that mattered. The prescriptive standards were not written or spoken in language that satisfied the admin. Sad when those in charge can't see the forest for the tress.