Learning Objectives and Instructional Setting
Within the instructional settings, clearly defined learning goals and objectives provide the teacher with a foundation for selecting appropriate content, learning activities and evaluation measures. According to Berry (2008), if objectives of a unit of study are not understood by the teacher and the learners, and learning activities fail to correlate with the learning goals. Then this means that the method of assessment will also be misleading and at worst, the content will be irrelevant, useless and fail to meet the student needs. Simply stated, learning objectives are projected outcomes of a learning experience, unit of study or course.
Relevance of the Unit Plan Learning Objectives to Instructional Setting
Essentially, in order to evaluate the importance of the unit plan learning objectives to the instructional setting, we must first understand the purpose of learning. Drawing back on the multi-day unit plan for the instructional setting, the unit topic focuses on teaching the first-grade students the traits of good citizens and contribution of American Leaders. More precisely, at the end of the unit, the students will be expected to apply the traits of a good citizen to achieve various learning milestones. Along with that, learners must be able to describe distinguished American leaders and their contributions to the country. For better understanding, the unit topic is divided into a set of learning objectives, which specify the knowledge, skills, and attitude that each learner is expected to attain at the end of the lesson. Along with that, it is important to understand that the importance of learning the aspect of good citizenship for first graders is to satisfy their curiosity and awaken in them the feeling that their nationality means more than the privileges of living in the States. In light of this, firstly, the learning objectives tell the student what is important. The students are required to learn, understand, and be able to identify the traits of a good citizen and apply this knowledge to their life. Along with that, learning objectives will enable students to identify iconic leaders and their major contributions to the great nation of America. Secondly, the learning objectives allow the teacher to assess the development of the learning experience. Thirdly, the learning objectives encourage reflection and course development, which helps learners identify background knowledge that students may have and in return promotes effective learning.
Weak Area in the Curriculum Content
Virtually, a weak curriculum content means that it fails to meet the standards necessary for providing students with the knowledge and skills required for effective learning. According to Nation & Macalister (2010), when a content of curriculum develops weaknesses, then students are unlikely to benefit from the content, which may further lead to failure of the students. Nonetheless, to detect weak areas in the content of the curriculum, it is important to understand the components of the content of the curriculum. Unfortunately, in this scenario, it is hard to give a definite answer without considering both the content and the process that constitute the content of the curriculum. According to Kridel (2010), and considering the inclusive view of instructions and content, educators can explore facts, which are visibly important to the curriculum content. In light of this curriculum content cannot be complete without clear correlation in the learning objectives, time management, learning materials, and methods of teaching or learning. In addition, it is also important to consider the importance of the subject matter, the influence of the skills and knowledge acquired and their relevance to the learner’s life inside and outside the classroom. Along with that, and as Ross (2006) note, curriculum content should be clear and well insulated with boundaries and relationship of learning objectives and activities arranged hierarchically. In this case, the curriculum contents in the unit plan blur into each other with unclear boundaries, discrepancies in instructions, and unmaintained hierarchies. This is visible in week two and week three learning objectives. Essentially, in week two students are expected to list four traits of citizenship, which is duplicated in week three where learners should list nine traits of citizenship. Discrepancies occur in the description section in week two, where the instructions change to a listing of nine characteristics instead of four traits. In week three, the learning objectives are listed as identifying nine attributes of citizenship and applying them in the other learning milestones. However, the discrepancy occurs in the lesson description, where learning activities are different from the objectives.
The first step to strengthen the curriculum content is by eliminating the discrepancies that occur within the learning objectives and the learning activities. According to Ross (2006), when the link between contents is unclear, weak, or blurred, then the curriculum content becomes weak and inhibits effective learning. By eliminating the inconsistency, the teacher will enhance the learning experience of the students since learning instructions and activities will correlate with the objectives making it easy for the students to understand what is expected of them.
Within the instructional settings, instructional strategies are procedures used to turn students into independent and strategic learners. According to Moore (2014), instructional strategies must help the students to accomplish tasks and meet goals effectively. Essentially, and as Snowman & McCown (2013) elaborates, effective instructional strategies must first identify the learning objectives and the assessment criteria for the unit of study or course. After that, the next step involves designing learning activities that will be used to engage learners alongside the learning materials in order to meet the learning objectives. Of course, the most important thing to consider in instructional strategies is the alignment of the learning objectives with the learning activities for effective assessment and learning. Focusing on the multi-day unit plan, there is a wide variety of instructional strategies used throughout the learning experience. When teaching, various instructional strategies can be used across grade levels and subject areas to accommodate the students’ interests, needs, and address their differences. However, when instructional strategies fail to meet the student needs or do not address learning comprehensively, then the instructional approach is considered weak. In this case, the instructional strategies used to fail to align the learning activities with the learning goals, which mean that the student activities do not support the objectives. This is evident in the discrepancies that are present in the objectives in week two and three and the different learning activities outlined in the description. Thus, while the learning experience will be accomplished, the learning goals will not be attained rendering the exercise less useful to the learners, the teacher, and the school. Another weak area that is present in the instructional strategy is lack of effective assessment for learning. Apparently, in the learning objectives, it is indicated that students are expected to attain a certain percentage for learning to be considered effective. Unfortunately, this evaluation criteria fails to consider other aspects of learning and assessment. For instance, assuming that learners in the classroom have different learning capabilities; it is not only discriminative but also considered a social injustice when the evaluation criteria expect exceptional learners to meet the same performance criteria with other students in the classroom. Besides, this kind of assessment fails to consider the student’s needs and that learning is achieved through trial and error, where failure is considered a learning experience. In addition to the above, the kind of assessment used fails to acknowledge education as a process to nurture the growth of the learner’s as complete individuals and rather sees them as vessels for instructions.
Before adopting any instructional strategy in an instructional setting, it is important to take into consideration several parameters that help determine the success or failure of the learning experience. By default, the pre-requisite in any instructional strategy involves first understanding the learning goals and objectives. This forms the foundation when designing the learning activities and assessment criteria. Nonetheless, that is not enough, as the learning activities must correlate with the learning objectives for an instructional strategy to be considered effective. In this regard, the most appropriate and efficient changes that should be implemented is aligning the learning activities with the objectives. By doing this, it will enhance and promote student understanding of what is expected of them and remove any misconceptions or difficulties that may occur during learning. In the case of evaluation, the criteria should not be limiting considering that students do not have the same learning capabilities. Rather a more accommodating assessment should be adopted to ensure that special needs or slow learners are not affected by the criteria. This ensures that students are motivated to keep on trying, boosts their self-confidence, addresses their growth as individuals, and enhances learning.
Effectiveness of the Recommended Changes
Learning goals and objectives represent a building block for transparent learning experience within the instructional setting. According to Zygouris-Coe (2015), they represent an important part of learning because they are statements that determine what the student should know, understand, or be able to demonstrate after the learning process is completed. On the other hand, and as Zygouris-Coe notes, learning activities are actions, which can be in the form of lectures, independent learning, or a practical activity that students undertake with the aim of gaining knowledge and skills as well as to ensure that learning objectives are attained. Learning outcomes must be validly assessed to ensure that effective learning has been achieved. In this context, it is important to ensure that there is alignment between the learning objectives, learning activities, and assessment criteria. Clear expectations of what the student is supposed to do and how they are meant to do, it is virtually an important part in effective learning. As it is, the alignment between learning outcomes, learning activities and assessments ensures that the overall learning experience is transparent and meaningful for the learners. Similarly, it is clear that when designing the evaluation criteria, the teacher should be considerate of the special students as well as the needs and interests of the learners as individuals and not just as instruments of instruction.
Berry, R. (2008). Assessment for learning. Aberdeen, Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.
Kridel, C. A. (2010). Encyclopedia of curriculum studies. Thousand Oaks, Calif: SAGE Publications.
Moore, K. D. (2014). Effective instructional strategies: From theory to practice. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Inc.
Nation, I. S. P., & Macalister, J. (2010). Language curriculum design. New York: Routledge.
Ross, A. (2006). Curriculum: Construction and critique. London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.
Snowman, J., & McCown, R. R. (2013). Ed psych. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/ Cengage Learning.
Zygouris-Coe, V. I. (2015). Teaching Discipline-Specific Literacies in Grades 6-12: Preparing Students for College, Career, and Workforce Demands. New York : Routledge.
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