Book Preview: Creating & Using Learning Targets & Performance Scales

The latest book in Learning Sciences’ Essentials for Achieving Rigor series is Creating & Using Learning Targets & Performance Scales: How Teachers Make Better Instructional Decisions by Carla Moore, Libby H. Garst, Dr. Robert J. Marzano, Elizabeth Kennedy, and Deana Senn.

Success in the Marzano framework hinges a lot on setting the right learning targets, constructing effective performance scales, and figuring out how to move students along the path to rigor and cognitively complex tasks. This guide seeks to enlighten educators on the most effectual processes to achieve those goals.

Part I

Part I of the book focuses on the process of creating learning targets and performance scales.

Many teachers think they know how to set learning goals and then find out where students fall in the process of achieving those goals. For many, that process is as simple as copying the appropriate standard on the whiteboard and using the occasional formative assessment. Learning Targets & Performance Scales wants to make that a more deliberate process.

To start, a standard and a learning target are not the same thing. A learning target is the product of appropriately unpacking a standard into specific skills that the student needs to master to achieve the standard.

Although the book walks you through the process in depth, creating a learning target is made easier by taking the verbs from a standard and using those words as seeds for specific skills.

For example, a kindergarten ELA standard might read: “With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.” The verbs in that standard are ask and answer. Asking is the more cognitively complex task, but both are important skills to master this standard.

Once you have your target, you now need the scale from which you will assess student learning. This process works around The New Taxonomy:

Level 1: Retrieval – executing, recalling, and recognizing

Level 2: Comprehension – integrating and symbolizing

Level 3: Analysis – matching, classifying, analyzing errors, generalizing, and specifying

Level 4: Knowledge Utilization – decision making, problem solving, experimenting, and investigating

An effective performance scale uses tasks that move students along this taxonomy toward the fourth level. Simplistically, you could just come up with a task for each level and call that your scale, but Learning Targets & Performance Scales has many more strategies to add depth and breadth to your scales, making them more effective for your students.

Recommended Reading

Creating & Using Learning Targets & Performance Scales:

How Teachers Make Better Instructional Decisions

By Carla Moore, Libby H. Garst, and Robert J. Marzano


Creating & Using Learning Targets & Performance Scales

Part II

Part II of the book is built around implementing targets and scales in your actual classroom. Sometimes teachers write down great targets and scales and then don’t translate them into actual classroom action.

Not only should the targets and scales make sense to you, but they should also be accessible to the students in language they will understand. This is the routine described in the book that implements your targets and scales:

  1. Explain the what, why, and how of a scale and its targets
  2. Make the scale and targets accessible to students
  3. Begin and close each lesson with a focus on the target
  4. Relate instruction to the target
  5. Refer to the learning progression of the scale

Partner with students in this process. If they understand the target and the scale with which they will be assessed, they are much more likely to be engaged and take ownership of their learning. The book delves into many more strategies to help this goal along.

The concepts covered in Creating & Using Learning Targets & Performance Scales might be the most transformative in the classroom. Implemented correctly, students will start moving toward mastery in a more purposeful and efficient manner.

We believe that the most important thing a teacher or leader can do is to fuel each student’s passion for learning. When this is achieved, a lifetime of accomplishment becomes possible for that learner. Through partnerships with schools and districts throughout the country, we help educators and leadership transform each classroom into a powerful learning environment that prepares students for lasting success in school, the global workplace, and beyond. Our vision for the future is big and bright, and we love helping schools get there. Learn more about Learning Sciences International.

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