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Jeansonne | December 13, 2017

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Penn State’s article about writing Learning objectives is a different perspective but one that offers more clarity.  In this system, “A” is for audience, “B” is for behaviour, “C” for conditions and “D” for degree of mastery needed. I have added  E- expectations of minimal meeting… or adjustments for learning differences.  An additional context for this discussion is Bloom’s Taxonomy and Costa’s Levels of Thinking. I tend to work with Costa more because it is student friendly language. A nice comparison is here

Audience (A) – Who? Here we design for ‘the student’.  It is assumed that the student is a typical person with typical development for that age.

  1. Behaviour (B) – Behaviour is not psycho-emotional manifestation but what do I want the student to DO. “This should be an overt, observable behaviour, even if the actual behaviour is covert or mental in nature. If you can’t see it, hear it, touch it, taste it, or smell it, you can’t be sure your audience really learned it.”   Each “command word” reflects a certain depth of thinking.
  2. “Condition (C) – How? Under what circumstances or context will the learning occur? What will the student be given or already be expected to know to accomplish the learning?”
  3. “Degree (D) – How much? How much will be accomplished, how well will the behaviour need to be performed, and to what level? Do you want total mastery (100%), do you want them to respond correctly 80% of the time, etc. A common (and totally non-scientific) setting is 80% of the time.” Another way of looking a this is DEPTH.
  4. EXPECTATIONS (added) :  What is the expectation for MINIMALLY MEETING versus MASTERY of the term.  Know and understand is very different that ‘identity’ or “Point to” “Pick” “List” “use the word bank”.

Why Specificity:

Even when we students learn things in depth, educators are charged with interpreting that learning into some sort of assessment.  As compared to the ‘draft curriculum’ this revision allows for:

  • The development of rubrics
  • The promotion of scaffolding
  • more specific depth to the question
  • guidance and some easing of the burden for new teachers
  • avoid misinterpretation of what depth means.
  • uphold Blooms Taxonomy or Costa’s Levels of thinking
  • a better idea of when students require intervention when they are not able to meet those behaviours.  

Approaching the ABCDE method allows for adaptations of  inputs and outputs. It also cements the learning outcome and avoids confusion about what should be adapted. For example,  “Know and Understand” is ambiguous and does not really demonstrate the behaviour, or degree of understanding or under what conditions.  It makes it difficult to assess and this is where we get into the wild west of “In My Humble Opinion”.  It also puts an educator’s credibility at stake when there is variance between teachers.  Clarity is not the death knell to creativity. Instead, think of clarity in learning outcomes as a design brief for a typical student rather than a carte blanche. 

A typical student should be able to meet the behavior (B) of the learning outcome.  If the behavior component needs to be changed then essentially the student is not able to meet the learning outcome. It cannot be ‘significantly adapted’. It is modified.  At that stage, interventions would be needed.  I would even go so far as to suggest that 80% of the learning outcomes should be achievable for a typical student.  If we were to look at the new B.C. Curriculum, I wonder if that is possible for atypical students.

Writing Learning Standards



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