In my last post about the inverted/flipped calculus class, I stressed the importance of Guided Practice as a way of structuring students’ pre-class activities and as a means of teaching self-regulated learning behaviors. I mentioned there was one important difference between the way I described Guided Practice and the way I’ve described it before, and it focuses on the learning objectives.
A clear set of learning objectives is at the heart of any successful learning experience, and it’s an essential ingredient for self-regulated learning since self-regulating learners have a clear set of criteria against which to judge their learning progress. And yet, many instructors – myself included in the early years of my career – never map out learning objectives either for themselves or for their students. Or, they do, and they’re so mushy that they can’t be measured – like any so-called objective beginning with the words “understand” or “appreciate”.
Coming up with good learning objectives is something of an art form, and I have a lot of room for improvement in the way I do it. However, I’ve been working with the following workflow for generating learning objectives that works particularly well for my students and fits the ethos of the flipped classroom. Here it is step-by-step.
STEP ONE: Comb through the unit you’re going to cover in class and write down all the things you’d like students to be able to do, at some point in the near future. Very importantly, use action verbs for these things and avoid anything that cannot be measured. In particular avoid the words know, understand, and appreciate.
For example, here’s the list of objectives that I came up with when I was planning out the unit on the chain rule in the calculus class. These are roughly in the same order in which they appear in the text, and I threw on a couple of additional objectives that address some review items: