As an extension of the conversation I started in last week’s Lead Smarter post, I shared the following thought in Twitter:
Quick reminder: Posting your objective on the board isn’t a best practice.
Making students aware of what they are expected to learn is a best practice.
Those aren’t the same thing.#trudatchat
— Bill Ferriter (@plugusin) March 28, 2019
The conversation took off from there — both online and offline. I wanted to address two uncomfortable truths that came up time and time again:
Teachers don’t always recognize the purpose behind posting daily objectives: The vast majority of teachers that I have interacted with over the last week were JAZZED with my tweet because they saw it is a condemnation of a common practice that leaves them frustrated. “Posting objectives is a complete waste of time,” one teacher told me. “Glad you called it out.”
But here’s the thing that many teachers missed in my Tweet: Communicating expectations to students — the fundamental purpose behind requirements that teachers post daily objectives on the board — ISN’T a “complete waste of time.” In fact, clarity around outcomes — for both teachers and students — is one of the MOST IMPORTANT things that we can do.
My position is that principals SHOULD require teachers to develop a strategy for communicating expectations to students — but posting daily objectives isn’t the ONLY way to accomplish that goal. The goal of administration shouldn’t be to require teachers to comply with a directive around communicating outcomes to kids. The goal should be to encourage teachers to design and test several practices for making outcomes explicit to kids.
And my message to teachers who hate posting their objective each day is, “Great. So what IS your strategy for communicating outcomes to your kids? Because that IS a nonnegotiable.”
Lots of principals have forgotten the primary purpose behind posting daily objectives: The most common response that principals have had to my tweet is, “Bill — Teachers aren’t posting their objectives for their students. They are posting them for other visitors that come to the classroom and want to know what it is that students are studying. If I walk into the classroom, I can instantly evaluate the effectiveness of the lesson better when I know what the expected outcome of the lesson is. That’s why posting objectives is a best practice.”
With all due respect, THAT’s the kind of thinking that drives teachers nuts — and it’s the reason that so many teachers resist what seems to be such a simple request.
If you are asking me to post objectives on the board in order to help students become more active participants in their own learning — to give them a sense for where they are going and a chance to see how they are doing — I’m all in. That makes sense to me. It has value to my kids. It improves learning in my classroom.
But if posting objectives is primarily about making it easier for YOU to figure out what it is that I am teaching, that’s a waste of my time. More importantly, that thinking is a distortion of the research around the reasons why teacher clarity matters so much. There is no evidence that making outcomes explicit for school leaders makes a difference in student learning even if it DOES make evaluation easier.
So ask yourself a simple question: Is posting daily objectives on the board a current requirement in your school or district?
If you answered yes, you might want to reflect on the messaging around that particular practice.
Teachers need to know that the requirement is tied to the notion of communicating expectations to students in an effort to turn them into learning partners who have a clear sense of what it is that they are supposed to learn. And principals need to know that posting objectives has nothing to do with making teacher evaluation easier.
But make no mistake about it: There really is a TON of confusion in the minds of both teachers and principals around the purpose of an incredibly common practice in schools.
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