Ch. 3 Clear Targets

This chapter lays out some of the learning targets that can be assessed.  They have categorized them into five learning targets:  knowledge, reasoning, skill, product, and disposition.  Below is the brief explanation of each learning target.

  1. Knowledge:  This is purely factual knowledge and conceptual understanding.  Knowing where to go to find facts is also part of this knowledge.  It is different from skill.  E.g. What is a triangle?
  2. Reasoning:  This target focuses on the thought process and application.  Reasoning includes:  inference, analysis, comparison, classification, evaluation, synthesis.  Something I really appreciated about this section is that it is not a replica of someone else’s thoughts.  That would be considered rote learning.  When thinking about reasoning, we should ask, ‘who is doing the reasoning?’  This resonated with me because, I get into a very bad mindset of giving students ‘too much information.’  For example,  I may lay out my reasoning for a certain concept (e.g. Bible) and have the students learn that reasoning (my reasoning!) and have them reproduce it for their unit test.  In this case, I did the reasoning not the students.
  3. Skill:  This refers to physical skill and performance.  This would be mostly knowing how to ‘do’ something.  E.g. Using a protractor properly.
  4. Product:  This target addresses the creation of a product.  E.g. creates tables, graphs, or term papers.
  5. Disposition:  This is one that may not be written down on a curriculum.  This target addresses the kind of attitude we want the students to have.  E.g. if the students express a strong dislike towards reading, the reading program may need adjustment.  I want to highlight the ‘disposition target’ example for math – 1.  Views oneself as capable of doing mathematics.  2.  Sees mathematics as important to learn.  This was a very ‘refreshing’ target to find in this book.  I never thought of disposition as a learning target.  I know that many schools adopt certain values as part of their over-arching ‘theme’ and ‘target’ for the school but for this to be discussed when talking about assessment was really great to see.

The second part of the chapter ventures into the practical part of using these targets.

First is to deconstruct the content standards and identify which target type it is.  The targets actually happen in progression and build on each other.  For example, you cannot practise reasoning without knowledge.  You need to be able to have knowledge and reasoning to be able to demonstrate a skill.  It doesn’t always happen that way, but most of the time it does.

Another vital part of knowing which target is being assessed is being able to communicate it to the students.  It is repeatedly stated that there are great benefits to being transparent with the students.  They are held responsible for their own learning and they are more likely be aware of their own learning.  This promotes self-motivation and self-assessment becomes a much natural process.

There’s a section about how the written curriculum is not the taught curriculum.  This section talks about how it’s easy to rely on textbooks to tell us what the curriculum is.  It points out that most textbooks have ‘too much’ content.  Being unaware of this fact, leads the teacher to focus on ‘coverage’ rather than the actual learning.  If a teacher paces her lessons based on the textbook content coverage, the students will be ‘rushed’ because most textbooks have more content than you can cover in a year.  I was so thankful to have read this because, I am one of those teachers who get caught up in the content coverage.

Lastly, here’s a list of benefits to having clear learning targets: (For teachers)

  1. Knowing what to teach
  2. Knowing what to assess
  3. Knowing what instructional activities to plan
  4. Avoiding ‘coverage’ at the expense of learning
  5. Interpreting and using assessment results
  6. Tracking and reporting information
  7. Working collaboratively with other teachers

If assessment is to be effective, quality curriculum is essential, which is why this chapter is a necessary part of the assessment discussion.