Year-End Planning for Learning Goals - Steve Barkley

Year-End Planning for Learning Goals

My involvement with Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) often revolves around establishing learning goals/outcomes for students and collaborating to map out the strategies to achieve those goals. This process inherently incorporates differentiation into educators’ planning. It begins with recognizing varied objectives based on each students’ initial levels. Different goals necessitate diverse student learning behaviors to enhance success. Even for students with identical educational objectives, varying learning behaviors might be required depending on their past educational experiences, motivations, and learning preferences.

Planning for student success at the start of the school year can greatly benefit from the insights of teachers from the previous year. Their familiarity with students is invaluable for setting precise learning goals and approaches to learning. As the academic year winds down, it’s an opportune moment for teachers to coordinate with colleagues from the subsequent grade to establish objectives for the next year.

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” (Tony Robins)

Consider a scenario where fourth-grade students in April complete a writing assignment, which is then reviewed by fifth-grade teachers who provide feedback on strengths and areas for improvement. The students revise their work and resubmit it for evaluation against fifth-grade standards. Subsequently, fourth and fifth-grade teachers collaborate to set writing goals for the new fifth graders. Again, establishing these goals before knowing the classroom assignments fosters effective team dynamics across grade levels.

I worked with one elementary school staff where, as the end of the year approached, they set aside a morning where kindergarten teachers went to 5th grade classrooms and grades 1-5 teachers all dropped down one grade level and did a reading running records assessment with the students. [Running Records are designed to be taken on any text as a child reads orally. They can provide informative records which enable teachers to determine what students are doing as they are reading, observe the strategies students use while they are problem-solving and make informed teaching decisions.]

Later, with those results and questions that arose, next year’s teachers meet with the students’ current teachers to set goals for the coming year. As an extra bonus this process decreases a common occurrence of teachers questioning the report of student mastery that they usually receive from the previous year’s teacher.

Later, with those results and questions that arose, next year’s teachers meet with the students’ current teachers to set goals for the coming year. As an extra bonus this process decreases a common occurrence of teachers questioning the report of student mastery that they usually receive from the previous year’s teacher.

Goal Setting

This method of interconnected goal setting and feedback is also effective between middle and high schools. For instance, writing assignments from eighth-grade students can be assessed and used by ninth-grade teachers to set targeted goals for incoming students, helping to plan their initial instruction. This approach ensures that students with advanced performance levels are also given due attention right from the start, preventing them from being overshadowed by the general focus on meeting grade-level standards or addressing the needs of students lacking foundational skills.

I found another example where teachers took a pre-assessment that they might use at the beginning of their first unit at the start of the year and have the lower grade level teacher give students the assessment. (Think Spanish 2 teachers or Algebra 2 teachers providing an assessment that the earlier year teachers implement.) The different level teachers then meet together assisting the next year’s teacher in goal setting and planning.

Instructional coaches, administrators, grade level-leaders and department chairs facilitating these communications are setting the stage for several benefits:

  • Ongoing, increased communication among staff in personalizing student learning. There is an increased likelihood that a grade seven ELA teacher who is being challenged by a student’s insufficient progress will reach out to a grade six teacher for reflection and brainstorming when they were partners in setting the goal for that student.
  • Increasing Collective Teacher Efficacy – Shared goals is a key to building a team…… shared goals with shared accountability. When goals are being set
  • ’s classroom students will be in (especially true in most elementary settings) there is a joint commitment to figuring out the personalization of a plan to reach each student’s success.
  • Connection of PLC/Team/Department goals for students to school goals– School administrators can explore the degree that the achievement of team goals would lead to reaching schoolwide goals. These goals having been set as the school year begins sets the stage for exploration of everyone’s commitment to overarching school goals. Coaches can begin building support for their shared investment in these student goals.
  • A clearer picture for teachers new to the school – Consider the value of a teacher new to the school starting out with learning goals set for her students. How long would we expect it to take for a new staff member to know the curriculum expectations and students’ learning levels well enough to set learning goals? Looking at a student’s assessment showing on-level mastery, the new teacher who would initially be comfortable with the outcome identifies that a goal of advanced level learning was noted the team. Teacher reflection on outcomes and possibilities is ignited. That reflection can motivate increased collaboration with colleagues.

Agreed upon goals sets the stage for teamwork.

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