To keep this short and sweet the debate surrounding learning objectives is one I could comfortably summarise by asking myself four questions:

Learning Objectives, do we need them in our planning? YES or else you’re just making it up!

Do they need to be routinely written on the board every lesson? Er NO but I often display on a slide to focus myself

Do they need to be differentiated? NAH

Do students need to write them down? NOPE this is typically too time consuming

At DESC a few staff have been considering skills development and how we might best develop both procedural and propositional knowledge. Knowledge acquisition and competency growth as clearly distinct from one another but also related to each other. Transferable skill development is encouraged through the medium of ‘Dare, Excel, Share, Create’ DESC or ‘Four to Grow’. Embedded within four to grow are a set of 16 verbs (super 16) or competencies that we would like our students to develop.


four to grow key words

Finding ways to make our learning intentions or objectives clear and worthwhile is a challenge, as is how we encourage the development of these skills in lessons without the exercise being a simple ‘add on’ or a token gesture.

“Marginal Learning Gains involves focusing in on a very small aspect of learning and refining it in order to extract as big a learning opportunity as possible from it…squeezing the learning” Zoe Elder

Below is one method I have trialled over the past couple of weeks to support myself in writing learning objectives that are focused on our super 16. This has served as a ‘quick win’ or marginal gain and a concrete way to communicate the relevance of learning, not just what we are doing but how and why we are doing it. Students practice what it means to explore, reflect, collaborate and in discussion I have linked this across other subjects.

four to grow


Benefits of using this approach:

Including the language in how you plan and/or frame the learning, compels you to use the language when communicating with the students.

Planning specifically to incorporate the development of the Four to Grow skills sharpens the focus for the learning.

Begin with the end in mind: The L/Os make it explicit about what you intend the impact of learning to be. The ‘SO THAT’?

The approach has made me think more careful about what I’m planning for students and its relevance

Co-construction of objectives-students coming up with the why they are doing this?

Next steps:

Competency development works best when it sits within a subject specific context, is there a need for each subject to define what each ‘Four to Grow’ verb means to their discipline?

Developing skills that are common in different subjects? Meaningful links can certainly be made between subjects, though this should be based on more than just content or loose ‘skills’. I want students to be able to make useful conceptual connections between subjects and recognise how they converge/diverge in an intelligent, inter-disciplinary way. Asking different questions of the same material is likely to benefit and enrich subjects.

See this post I wrote in 2014: Team Synergy- Doing inter-disciplinary learning right!