Tick box teaching – should teachers start with the learning objectives?

Once upon a time in a not too distant land a group of ex-teachers turned inspectors decided to interpret the research of a group of educational researchers at Kings. They thought they were very clever and came up with a list of criteria for what they thought was a good, excellent or outstanding lesson. The only problem was that they didn’t really read the research properly and ended up getting things half right. All the teachers in the schools were told they must do certain things in a lesson and would be judged outstanding by the OFSTED wizards and this is how the myth was born…..

……..we should all write the learning objectives on the board in the top right hand corner, make the children write them down in their books etc
Was this the original intent of Paul Black and Dylan William when they wrote “Inside the Black Box- Raising Standards through Classroom Assessment” ? In a word NO! They had no intention of forcing all teachers no matter how good into this educational strait-jacket.


Learning Objectives on display simply give the game away – they tell children exactly what they are learning before they do it. Where is the fun in that? If I start my lesson telling the students that at the end of the lesson they should know that when copper reacts with oxygen it forms copper oxide where do I go from there? Surely that learning objective has been achieved purely by stating it. I know I’m oversimplifying and carefully phrased learning objectives can be really useful to share with the students at some point in the lesson, not necessarily at the start.

There is also this belief that everything we do, as teachers, should be to please OFSTED. So do they want lessons starting with objectives? Again NO! (They may have originally forced this upon us, but even they have realised it can be a rather dull way to start a lesson!) OFSTED are now looking for what they call a “hook” – which is something engaging that draws the pupils in at the start of the lesson.

So what are the next steps? Teachers should have courage the think outside the black box (or at least the bureaucrat’s interpretation of it) and consider starting with big questions which students should be able to answer by the end of the lesson. These might be communicated at the start, in the middle or perhaps the students come up with them? There is no one right way, as professionals we need to choose the best path for our students.

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