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Determining Essential Learnings or Essential Outcomes. September 14, 2010. The Four Key Questions  of PLC’s. What is it we expect our students to learn? How will we know when they have learned it? How will we respond when they don’t learn? How will we respond when they already know it?.

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Determining Essential Learnings or Essential Outcomes

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Determining essential learnings or essential outcomes l.jpg

Determining Essential Learnings or Essential Outcomes

September 14, 2010


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The Four Key Questions of PLC’s

  • What is it we expect our students to learn?

  • How will we know when they have learned it?

  • How will we respond when they don’t learn?

  • How will we respond when they already know it?


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We must be explicit about question #1

  • We clearly define what it is we expect students to know. Clear learning goals are a necessity if we expect all students to learn.

  • Our work with Lisa Carter and TIA tells us that we should construct learning objectives stated in measurable terms.

  • In order to create clear learning goals for students, teachers must first clearly define what it is we want students to learn.


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Goals for Essential Outcomes…

  • Grade- or department level teams identify the essential learning outcomes for each course or grade level. This answers the question, “What is it that students need to know and be able to do?”

  • Essential learning outcomes are the 8-10 “big ideas” per semester-long course or the 16-20 “big ideas” per a year-long course that are most important for students to be able to know and do.


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Because we can not teach everything…

  • …in this age of information, a key to establishing a curricular focus is to make sure the curriculum focuses on significant learner outcomes.

  • One difficulty secondary teachers often complain about is the amount of curriculum they “have to” cover. The irony, however, is much of what is being taught in classrooms includes a lot of small facts rather than the important “big” ideas.

  • One way out of the coverage trap is for teams of teachers to step back and define and identify what is really and truly important for students to know and be able to do.


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Essential Learnings/Power ObjectivesStep By Step

  • Step 1: You decide the absolutely essential objectives

  • Step 2: Team consensus

  • Step 3: Check for vertical alignment

  • Step 4: Sequence and pace objectives


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Step 5: Refine these essential learnings into specific types of learning targets


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By defining as product, skill, reasoning or knowledge…

…we move beyond simple declarative or procedural knowledge to a greater refinement of the specific skills or behavior we will accept as evidence of learning.

….and the next step of building common assessments is made easier


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The Process of Determining Essential Learnings is to insure…

  • Each member of our team or who teaches our course or grade level is exceptionally clear on the intended outcomes of our course in general as well as the specific outcomes of each unit.

  • We have to identified the prerequisite knowledge and skills needed to master the intended outcomes of the course or unit.

  • We have to identify strategies and instruments to assess whether students have the prerequisite knowledge and skills.

  • If they do not know how to multiply…we can not teach division. Therefore, for students who do not have the skill we must provide a means to deliver that instruction.


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The Process of Determining Essential Learnings is to insure…

  • We also have to agree on how to best sequence the content of the course to help students achieve the intended outcomes and to help us monitor their progress.

  • We have aligned the outcomes of our course to state goals and to high stake tests such as the SAT, ACT and EOC’s/EOG’s.

  • We have agreed on the criteria we will use in judging the quality of student work in key areas of our course such as writing, speaking, and projects.

  • We have taught students the criteria we will use in the judging the quality of their work and have provided them with examples.


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Here’s why…

“Teachers are most effective in helping all students learn when they are clear regarding exactly what their students must know and be able to do as a result of the course, grade level or unit of instruction.”

(p. 51 Learning By Doing)


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Learning by Doing

  • See pages 46-59 of Learning By Doing.

  • It outlines and explains the process and reasoning behind the effort to define the essential learnings.

  • “Vision on, pressure off.” After the work, this makes it easier because we have a clear target or picture of where we are heading in our course, in our schools, and our classrooms.

“The Common Formative Assessments match the Essential Learnings”

Common Formative Assessment


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