Learning Intentions

The Situation

Students need to understand the overall purpose of learning.

The Solution

Students always need to understand why the learning is important.

Learning Intention

A learning intention is a statement that summarises what a student should know, understand or be able to do at the end of a lesson or series of lessons. The purpose of a learning intention is to ensure that students understand the direction and purpose of the lesson. These statements are presented at the start of a lesson (Something we call ‘visible learning’) and should be discussed with students throughout the lesson, or when necessary. They are used to summarise the learning; that is, we return to the learning intentions to evaluate whether students understand what they explored.

As mentioned, learning intentions are written with the stem: know, understand or be able to. For example:

  • Know the definition of a metaphor.
  • Understand how metaphors are used to create imagery in a text.
  • Be able to identify three metaphors in a short poem.

As you can see, the stems a associated with levels of thinking. When sequencing your lessons, consider whether the skills students are learning are low order, such as know a definition, or higher-order, such as applying this knowledge to a text.

How to Present Learning Intention

The learning intentions should be presented on the whiteboard and/or powerpoint, depending on the context of your classroom. Unpack the language in the statement. If a word is unfamiliar to a student, tell them why. For example, know the definition of a metaphor. This might be the first time students have come across the word metaphor. That is okay. Reinforce that you will be looking at this new vocabulary at the beginning of the lesson and they can practice understand the term later.

The language needs to be clear and direct, much like a SMART goal. Furthermore, it needs to be something that they can achieve based on their current skill level. The skill itself cannot be so complicated that they cannot obtain a rudimentary understanding from their prior knowledge.

When introducing the learning intention, quiz students on what they know. You will be surprised at what information that they may come across or even how accurate their guesses can be. Use this prior knowledge to help guide their understanding of what they will learn.

Stop and reflect

After each activity, stop and pauses. Ask students whether they feel they’re working towards the learning intention successfully. This will help you understand whether they are on the right track or you need to adjust your teaching.

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