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Sneak Peak: Guiding Questions Excerpt

Check out an excerpt from chapter 2 - what is my learning outcome?

I can still remember asking a new teacher what her learning outcome was for the lesson I had just observed. Her eyes widened like she was a deer in the headlights, and I knew at that moment where I needed to start working. It was clear that during the lesson design, warm-up and activity, the teacher had not taken a moment to actually define what the students needed to learn that day. Sadly, this was not the only time this has happened in a post-observation conference. Yes, this is probably the most important thing to know before designing a lesson.


So how do you avoid this pitfall? I would suggest answering the question “What is my learning outcome?” It is the easiest and clearest way to define your work for the day.

Defining your learning outcome

First things first: define your standard. What standard or standards do you expect your students to master in this unit? Where will they start? How will you order the learning for maximum effect? Narrow those standards down to what you will focus on first.

But your learning outcome is not the standard. When I’ve asked the question “What was your learning outcome?” many teachers point to the standard on the pre-printed strip taped to the board. Most standards are deep and complex and aren’t going to be mastered in one day. When I say learning outcome, I mean what the students are expected to learn that specific day.

For example, here is a standard from the new ELAR TEKS for 8th grade:

7(A) Analyze how themes are developed through the interactions of characters and events

Most likely, students are not going to master that standard in one day. How can you break up that learning? What from that standard can you expect them to learn in one day?

It might be broken down like this:

● Students will identify key characters in a short story

● Student will identify key events in a short story

● Students will explain the significance of characters in a short story

● Students will explain the significance of events in a short story

● Students will determine the theme of a short story

● Students will analyze how the author used the interaction of characters and events to develop theme

● Students will use text-evidence to support their conclusions

Notice these outcomes, taken individually or in a small cluster, are clear to both student and teacher. They are achievable in a day or two depending on your students and your timeframes. They are assessable.

In contrast, look at the goal below:

Students will read and analyze for theme

This objective could mean different things to different people and will likely leave students with little guidance. What exactly are they supposed to do? Most 8th graders won’t get a clear picture from what they are supposed do during a lesson based on that objective.

If you cannot articulate the learning outcome for the day, chances are the students can’t either. Teacher clarity is a key foundational piece to teaching (Fisher, Frey, & Hattie, 2016). Without it, many of the other perhaps fantastic elements that are going on in your classroom are less impactful.

Interested in reading more? You can order the book on Or you can stop by The Twig Book Shop. Don't miss my sit & sign event there on Sunday, August 11 from noon until two. Hope to see you there!

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