Learning Target?


Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I asked the question here why more teachers don’t share their learning targets with their students.

It would seem to me that we can encourage student responsibility for their learning by sharing what we want them to learn in our classes. We can further extend this learning for students if we share with them how they will know when they have learned it deeply.

Students can hit any target they know about and that stands still for them – Rick Stiggins

To be clear, a learning target is not an instructional objective. Each serves a different purpose.

An instructional objective is meant to guide instruction during a lesson or across a series of lessons. It is derived from provincial/state content standards and represents a key step that teachers will take to help students learn the component knowledge and skills that make up the standard. As such, instructional objectives are not designed for the student, but are written from the teacher’s perspective. The student will be able to …

On the other hand…

A learning target guides learning, providing focus for what the students will come to know deeply during the lesson. It is written from the students’ perspective and offers a student-friendly description in language that they understand of what they should come to learn or do during the lesson. As such, learning targets become a tool that helps students take charge of their own learning.

A well-developed learning target unpacks a “lesson-sized” amount of learning. It represents a portion, or “chunk”, of a particular content standard that the students can master during the lesson. A learning target serves as a “look-for” that guides students to knowing what to learn, how deeply to learn it, and exactly how to demonstrate the new learning.

If students know what to look for and can aim their sights (direct their energy) on a learning target, they can take ownership for their learning. By doing this, teachers grant their students the opportunity for mastery through autonomy and provide a sense of purpose. This represents essentials components of the motivation map that can drive student engagement and empowerment for their learning.



Where to begin when personalizing learning

As readers of this blog may know, I have a great interest in personalizing the learning experience for students.

I find that in its simplest form, personalizing is offering students choice and challenging them to think in creative ways that are meaningful and rewarding to them. I have been practicing this for a while in my own classroom, and have witnessed a high degree of student engagement in classroom learning tasks as a result.

Lately, though, my thoughts have turned to scaling a model of personalizing learning for an entire school.

Where do you begin if you want to implement personalized learning for an entire school or school system?

I find that “The Honeycomb Approach to Personalized Learning” makes good sense in that it keeps the student learning experience central to all considerations during the planning process.

Honeycomb approach to personalized learningsource: The Institute @CESA#1

This approach developed by The Institute @ CESA#1, rightly notes that our attempts to implement personalized learning for an entire building isn’t necessarily a linear planning approach. It will get “messy.” Instead, we need to remember that all planning begins with the learner at the core of all thinking (and not new schedules, technology devices or even ‘trendy furniture’ as primary considerations.), and the honeycomb allows us to do this. This helps us focus our thinking on three factors (the cells in blue):

Learner Profiles – Comprehensive, data-rich learner profiles convey how a student learns best and are used to plan a customized learning environment and instructional strategies.

Customized Learning Paths – Students help create unique learning paths based on their individual strengths and interests. Content, pace and feedback are calibrated for each learner and needs are addressed as they occur rather than having to remediate later.

Proficiency-based Progress – All students are expected to demonstrate mastery of rigorous, comprehensive standards. Progress is based on what students have learned, not how much time they have spent in school.

From these starting points, necessary decisions can then be made about suitable teaching strategies and engaging classroom learning experiences (the cells in orange), the expectations for the different roles and relationships of both students and teachers (the cells in green), and the appropriate structures and policies to support the personalized learning practice (the cells in purple), with each decision assessed for its potential impact on the core components.

There are a number of advantages in using the honeycomb approach when planning for personalized learning. Of those mentioned here, I think the flexibility of the this approach offers an “organic” opportunity to help develop teacher capacity for instructional effectiveness in meeting every students’ learning needs:

The core components and surrounding cells can guide professional learning activities for individual educators and teams; they are also useful in supporting collegial coaching and feedback.

As the work gains momentum, schools and teams use the honeycomb as a guide for determining where to build out and scale their work as they move forward. For example, they might chose to add opportunities for Customized Learning Paths or Learner Independence as well as expand their work to other classrooms.

This article provides a concise introduction on how the honeycomb approach can work. Be sure to follow-through on the links, too, to get a wider appreciation on the application of each component.

All in all, I believe that personalizing the learning experience will engage students more in their learning, equip students with the necessary knowledge and skills based on their needs and abilities, and empower students as they move forward in their learning career. This truly is Vibrant Learning for me.


Dr. J. Rickbaugh. Finding your sweet spot: The honeycomb approach to personalized learning.

The Institute @ CESA#1. Personalized learning.