Timothy G. Weih, Ph.D.
University of Northern Iowa, USA
This is the first part of a two part article intended to familiarize the beginning teacher with educational standards and objectives and how to plan content literacy (i.e., reading, writing, listening, discussion, and presenting activities infused into social studies, science, language arts, and math) curriculum, instruction, and assessment that aligns with them.
Educational Standards, Objectives, and Curriculum
Teachers have been teaching with content subject standards for many decades, but over the years, they have been called by various terms; however, in scope and sequence, they remain relatively similar. Educational standards are general, long-range educational subject area student goals. Objectives, like standards, have also been called various terms over the years, but continue to possess qualities in common. Objectives are specifically stated short-range goals that state what students will show or demonstrate as they engage in the standard. Standards and objectives are part of the curriculum, but they are not "the" curriculum. Curriculum is a comprehensive and cohesive collection of the following components: standards, objectives, informational content, materials, resources, methods, strategies, and assessments used for teaching a content subject area. Each subject area, i.e., science, social studies, math, and language arts has its own set of curriculum.
Educational Content Area Student Standards Provide Guidance
Subject area content standards are statements that delineate desired goals for subject areas or for concepts within subject areas, for elementary students to attain. The main purpose of standards are to serve as useful guideposts for what to teach and what to assess, not "how" to teach, or what materials to use for teaching. Educated teachers can create, develop, and design their own instructional materials including lesson plans by using the content area standards as guides. Since standards are broadly stated, general student goals, they apply to most areas of planning for content literacy instruction. Teachers can plan almost any type of literacy instruction and locate a standard to match it. Standards are usually provided by the school, state, or sometimes the federal government. These standards can be located through online search engines as well as institutional websites.
Standards, however, do not encompass specifically observable and measureable student behavior, but instead, are very generally stated, long range goals meant to address just about anything that is being taught. This is why they are usually further broken down into observable and measureable objectives. Because instruction and assessment are directly linked, it is important for teachers to learn how to develop their own student objectives. The following sections will cover how to create objectives to align with the content standards.
Student Objectives and Student Skills: What is the Difference?
When teaches create, develop, and design actions for students to do in relation to a standard, these are called student objectives. Consequently, when students are able to demonstrate the objectives, they are demonstrating their skills, meaning the objectives have been reached. When teachers create the short range goal, this is called the objective, when students learn it and can use it (demonstrate it) it is called a skill. Effective teaching involves knowing when elementary students have learned the objectives. Students do not demonstrate objectives, they demonstrate acquired skills. Instructional objectives are specific statements of what students will know or be able to do as a result of the teacher's instruction and their learning.
Planning for Content Literacy Instruction
In planning for content literacy instruction, teachers think about the following in order to develop their own student objectives:
â€¢ What do students need to do with the content to demonstrate that they understand how to use it as acquired skills?
â€¢ What level, degree, or quality of performance will students need to demonstrate in using the skill?
â€¢ How will I know that students have acquired the skill? What am I looking for in their behavior or work?
Teachers can only assess and evaluate what they can physically observe with their students, so teachers think about what actions their students will need to show to them for the sake of assessment and evaluation. Included in the following list are student actions that teachers can observe and therefore, measure.
â€¢ Students will be able to explain.
â€¢ Students will be able to interpret.
â€¢ Students will be able to apply.
â€¢ Students will be able to create.
â€¢ Students will be able to compose.
â€¢ Students will be able to construct.
Blooms Taxonomy (1956) is a very useful methodology for teachers to apply in developing their own student objectives. The following subsections explain and describe how this methodology can be implemented when planning for instruction.
Bloom et. al. (1956), identified three categories or domains of educational activities in which students can demonstrate or show in their behavior, which are as follows:
â€¢ Cognitive (mental skills or knowledge)
â€¢ Affective (growth in feelings or attitude)
â€¢ Psychomotor (manual or physical skills)
All three of these areas work in concert with each other as demonstratable skills from students that teachers can observe, and therefore, assess and evaluate student abilities; however, this article mainly focuses on the cognitive domain.
The Cognitive Domain: Why Use it?
Implementing Bloom's classifications of thinking (cognitive tasks) strategies in planning for content literacy instruction involves a process for ordering cognitive learning objectives for elementary students. When teachers understand and implement the process they are able to do the following:
â€¢ Place instructional objectives into logical teaching sequences while planning for content literacy instruction
â€¢ Be specific in planning objectives and learning activities for their students
â€¢ Plan and implement lessons that will engage their students at higher thinking levels
â€¢ Create assessment procedures and items that are consistent with instructional objectives and activities
â€¢ Decide when to pursue plausible, alternative objectives that are suggested by students
â€¢ Provide variety and more complex thinking activities for their elementary students
The Six Levels or Categories of the Cognitive Domain
In planning for content literacy instruction, it is important to guide the elementary students to activate different areas of thinking. Bloom identified six levels or categories of the cognitive domain or the type of thinking needed to accomplish a learning objective, resulting in demonstrating a skill on the part of the student. In review, the standard is the broad based goal, the objective is the short range goal, and the skill is the student-demonstrated ability with the objective. The six levels are presented in the next subsections beginning with the simplest demonstration of student thinking and moving forward into the levels that require increasing difficulty in thought skill development. It is important for teachers to plan for their elementary students to be active in each level through their development of content literacy instruction.
Knowledge Level (memory recall)
At the simplest level of cognitive thought, the knowledge level, elementary students are asked to recall, recognize, and reproduce what has been previously learned in the teacher's content literacy instruction, this is known as the knowledge level of cognitive thought (requires simple memory recall). When planning for content literacy instruction, teachers can use the following action words to create their student objectives. Students will: reproduce, recognize, recall, list, or identify (whatever it is that they are being taught). For example, for a topic unit on the American Revolutionary War, knowledge objectives could be the following: Students will recall the definition of democracy, state the name of the king of England during the Revolutionary War, or list three events that occurred during the Revolutionary War.
Comprehension Level (understanding)
At the comprehension level of cognitive thought, elementary students are asked to understand content literacy material and express it in their own words or in a similar form. When planning for content literacy instruction, teachers can use the following action words to develop their student objectives, students will: define, describe, summarize, or demonstrate understanding. For example, for the topic unit on the American Revolutionary War, comprehension objectives could be the following: Students will summarize the major events during the Revolutionary Period, discuss the differences between loyalists and patriots, or define democracy in their own words.
Application Level (make use of gained understanding)
For the application level of cognitive thought, elementary students must not only recall and understand content, they must be able to do something with it, or in other words, to make use of it somehow in real ways. When planning for content literacy instruction, teachers can use the following action words to create their student objectives, students will: classify, apply, find, choose, compute, sort, or organize. For example, for the topic unit on the American Revolutionary War, the application level of thinking and doing could be the following, Students will: classify arguments that support the patriot and loyalist positions of 1776; when given a description of colonial life in America in 1775, identify the entries that do not fit with what we know about the period; or generate new examples of revolutionary developments in the world today.
Note: Student engagement with the first three levels of cognitive thought and activity provide experiences that serve to prepare students for effective engagement in the remaining three levels of Bloom's Taxonomy which are covered in part two of this article.
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