“A Love Affair of Mine: Objectives”

“Simply said, when students understand the purpose of a lesson, they learn more”

(Fraser, Walberg, Welch, & Hattie, 1987; Marzano, Pickering, & Pollock, 2001 in Fisher & Frey, 2010, p. 1)

It has been stirring for a while.  At first I didn’t even notice him.  He kept coming around more often so I could not ignore him.  I checked him out and had zero interest.  He seemed too straight-laced for me.  Annoying even.  People were talking about him.  I watched.  I studied.  He seemed pushy but, to my surprise, he started making sense to me. I couldn’t stop thinking about him.  I couldn’t get him out of my mind.  I’ll admit it - I’m obsessed.

 I have been known lately for telling my university students - inservice teachers- “You have to fall in love with your objectives.”  Yes, you read that right, fall in love with your objectives! When you think about them, swoon about them.  Consider putting them in a safe deposit box.  If you really think about what you want students to learn, then you ought to really care and love what you hope they will learn!  Too often, I visit classrooms where well-meaning educators have mandated that teachers write objectives on the board for each lesson.  Teachers are reprimanded if the objectives are not there.  Many teachers live in fear of objectives and seem to be posting them because they have to not because they have carefully thought about what they hope students to get out of the lesson they are teaching.  (I know, I know, there’s no time to do that!  I suggest starting small with one subject area and building a library of objectives.  With practice objective-writing becomes easier and quicker!)  If you really think about it, no matter your style or philosophy, a big part of teaching are those chunks of the day where you are hoping to impart something to students, that they walk away more able to make decisions, understand the world and impact it in different ways.  From writing an essay and publishing it as a letter to the editor about a deeply held belief to being able to add coins accurately or keep track of money in a checkbook - teaching does have intentional outcomes, no matter how narrow or broad.  Does writing objectives keep us from teachable moments when a butterfly flies into a classroom lands on a student’s palm or when a lesson on acids and bases turns into a discussion about police brutality?  No.  I argue with thoughtful and well-loved objectives, teachers and students will be more able  articulate what they want to teach and learn, what they taught and learned, reducing less fruitful lessons and making space for more teachable moments, and ultimately, a freer education!

The love affair is full-blown now.  We are dating.  At first, he seemed inflexible and overly rational, but I see that he can be anything I hoped for...This is why I have fallen for objectives.

  • They help the teacher to think about what they really want the students to get out of the lesson.
  • They keep the teacher’s focus on the key content.
  • They remind the teacher to (re) focus on the purpose(s) of the lesson during the lesson.
  • They show students that you have a goal and a purpose for the work that you are directing them to do.
  • They give the teacher a way to measure what students have learned or understood so they can re-teach as needed.
  • They give students a way to self-evaluate their progress immediately.
  • They respect students as responsible for their learning and not-learning, lesson by lesson.
  • They respect teachers as knowledgeable and responsible for knowing what they are teaching students lesson-by-lesson.
  • Once you write them, you can use them as a guide to decide what materials, activities, strategies, and how much time you should use for the lesson itself!
  • They can make you feel more effective and more satisfied as a teacher.

Fall in love!

Check out our magnetic pocket chart strips for posting objectives easily without taking up lots of space on your whiteboard!


Tricia Gallagher-Geurtsen
Tricia Gallagher-Geurtsen


Leave a comment

Comments have to be approved before showing up.

Everyday ELL is now Every Language Learner.