Section 3 EPPSEM Findings
3.2 Clear, shared objectives
Good teaching and learning are facilitated by teachers and pupils working towards common, shared goals that are agreed and understood by all concerned. Children need to know what they are supposed to be learning and how much they should aim to achieve over a defined period of time and they need to internalise these goals as their own. In order for children to be able to achieve their learning goals, teachers must ensure their pupils understand the learning objectives and have a good understanding of the key learning concepts and ideas required to meet these goals.
The COS-5 included two quantitative measures of how well goals were shared and whether or not teachers ensured that key concepts and ideas were clear to their pupils. In addition to these, both the COS-5 and IEO qualitative observations provided an insight into whether or not teachers explicitly shared their learning objectives with their pupils and how thoroughly they checked their pupils’ understanding of key ideas. The field notes of the lessons, once again, gave further information about how well the teacher made the lesson objectives and key learning concepts clear to the children. Researchers often noted whether the learning objectives were written up on the board for the children and whether or not the teacher referred to them during the lesson. Teachers’ explanations and approaches to new ideas and concepts, how they handled any difficulties or misconceptions and the children’s reactions to these, were often described in detail.
The Year 5 classrooms were again split between the three groups. Teachers in excellent schools were rated most highly on sharing learning goals with their pupils. Good schools’ teachers were rated significantly higher than poor schools’ teachers both on making sure the learning intentions of their lessons were clear to their pupils and on how thoroughly they ensured that key learning concepts and ideas were clear to their pupils.
Table 3.2a Shared Goals*
Characteristics of Year 5 classrooms in schools with . . .
Group A: Excellent schools Group B: Good schools Group C: Poor schools The learning intentions of the
lesson or activity are clear to all children
Very Good Good** Good**
The teacher ensures concepts and ideas are clear to all children
Very Good Very Good Good
* Unless otherwise stated, differences in qualitative descriptions indicate significant differences (p<.05) between groups.
** Year 5 teachers in Group B were rated significantly higher than those in Group C.
In excellent and good schools, almost all teachers were rated extremely highly on both ensuring that the lesson objectives were clear and that concepts and ideas were clear to the children. They did this by (usually) writing the lesson objective on the board and by making sure that pupils understood what they were expected to achieve in each lesson. It was standard practice for lesson objectives to be up on the board, for teachers to check that
36 children understood the main ideas of the lesson and for them to intervene when understanding was not clear or complete.
The picture in excellent and good schools was one where teacher and pupils were absolutely clear about what should be happening at all times combined with a commitment on both parts to ensure that goals were achieved. In excellent schools, teachers were especially good at ensuring the objectives of the particular lesson or activity were clear to every child.
What does ensuring learning objectives, concepts and ideas are clear look like in Year 5 classrooms?
In S02, the teacher changed her lesson when she realised her pupils had not grasped one of the main principles needed to complete a symmetry activity. After an introduction to symmetry (the children had been working on this topic in Art as well as in Maths), the children were asked to work in pairs and create patterns for each other to repeat. The patterns had to contain two lines of symmetry and a perpendicular line. Despite a careful introduction to the task and the teacher modelling how to approach it, the children were still not sure what to do (there was much confusion over how to draw a perpendicular line). When the teacher realised that the confusion was wide-spread, she stopped the lesson, re- explained the task and then asked the children to have another go (S02, Numeracy IEO).
In contrast, a commitment to a common goal was missing from many of the poor schools’ classrooms. Teachers were slow to check, and to correct where necessary, their pupils’ understanding of key concepts and ideas. Although children in these classrooms were aware of any lesson objectives, it was not clear whether or not they fully understood them or how to achieve them and there was much less focus and drive to meet these goals.
Key findings on shared goals:
1. Most Year 5 teachers, regardless of the academic effectiveness or quality of pedagogy of their school, ensured that the learning intentions of their lessons were shared with their pupils, although teachers in poor schools were not rated as highly on this as Year 5 teachers in other groups.
2. Year 5 teachers in excellent and good schools were better at ensuring that their pupils understood both the learning intentions and the ideas and concepts presented in their lessons.
Year 5 teachers in excellent schools excel at:
• Providing clear learning objectives: teachers ensured that each child knew what he or she was expected to learn during each lesson and activity.