When asking students to complete the sentence “we are learning to..”, many students struggle to select an appropriate verb to articulate their learning goals. The verb in the learning objective, describes the action associated with the desired learning outcome. The supporting verbs used in success criteria to deliver that action may vary in different contexts and as teachers, it is important that we make this visible to students.
For example, “we are learning to analyse…” will demand a different set of behavioural or task driven criteria when analysing text as a writer than analysing data in a science class.
"We are learning to analyse the events of the early C20th to determine the causes of WW1”
In this example, a significant focus of the lesson should be on analysis. Learning “about” the causes of WW1 could be delivered via a worksheet or video and would only require lower order thinking. Success would be determined by each student’s capacity to “know” or “remember” rather than their capacity to develop a claim supported by evidence and reasoning.
Why is it then that so many students are neglecting the verb? Why do such a large percentage of learners replace a powerful verb with the more ambiguous “We are learning about…..”?
Could it be that as teachers, we are placing more emphasis on knowing, at the expense of doing and understanding? Are we focusing too heavily on the “what” at the expense of the “how” and the “why?” Or are the strategies we use to discuss learning goals in terms of verb, noun and context failing to have the desired impact?
Find time to take a moment and test this for yourself
Ask your students to complete a Verso Check-in and put this to the test. Try a different strategy or two and check-in again to measure the impact on learning.