Division of Academic Affairs
In her first episode for Teaching & Learning Matters, Concepcion Godev offers some important ideas for setting achievable course goals. Well designed goals can improve your teaching and help your students demonstrate their learning.
Hello. This is Dr. Concepcion Godev, Faculty Fellow at the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Thanks for tuning in.
Today’s topic is Setting up Achievable Goals for what we teach and what we want our students to learn. Other terms used for goals are instructional or learning outcomes.
How goals are set up throughout the semester is going to determine in part the chances of success for students to learn and for instructors to be able to aid students to achieve these goals.
A goal has to answer four questions:
But the answer to these questions will prove to be vague if they are not framed in time. The scope of a goal will be different if the question is How do I want my students to demonstrate their learning today? as opposed to three weeks into the semester or at the end of the semester.
Defining goals may not be enough if these goals are not achievable. For instance, deep learning of more than five or six new terms per class period may not be a realistic goal if the exposure to these terms consists of reading them a few times and there is no additional exposure to the new terms by using them in an application activity, a discussion, or even in an online interactive activity.
A goal is not achievable if the targeted material is not learnable. Therefore a question that needs to accompany any goal should be Is this material learnable under the present conditions? There are a number of factors that may affect the learnability of a material, such as amount of exposure, the type of exposure, integration of the material with previous knowledge, or integration of the material with other parts of the course.
Understanding students’ background in the subject matter can help you determine achievable goals. For instance, the majority of the students in my upper division undergraduate course on History of the Spanish Language have never taken an introductory course in linguistics. This information helps me in planning every class so that linguistics terms that are relevant to the course are introduced as they come up, and are addressed at a pace that gives students a chance to learn them.
An important element to the notion of achievable goals is the level of consistency between how students demonstrate comprehension or knowledge of the material on a daily basis and how they have to demonstrate comprehension or knowledge on a test. Ideally we want as much consistency as possible. For instance, if students have learned a new technical term by a matching exercise, a test should not ask students to demonstrate knowledge of this term by writing a definition and giving an example.
Examining whether or not short-term and long-term course goals are achievable may contribute to improve the teaching and learning environment of our courses.
Thanks for listening. Tune in again and remember: Teaching and Learning Matters.
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