One of my major concerns with learning objective and in particular ‘All, Most, Some’ objectives is that they are a form differentiation by outcome, identifying this inevitability is not all that useful. It may be better to start off with the desired outcome for all and try to scaffold and support in a way which avoids as many students as possible falling short. In addition to this they also, as Andy Tharby and Shaun Allison point out in ‘Making Every Lesson Count’, encourage students to not take the risk of failure. “Why risk failure and humiliation in front of my peers by attempting the other ones and getting them wrong?” It breeds a culture of teaching to the bottom and of low expectations.
I also feel that the way many schools use lesson objective is damaging for high start point students. Many schools use a lesson objectives approach which utilises Bloom’s taxonomy for their command words. For the high start point students this involves asking them to create something original. This assumes that originality is the key purpose of learning, in many cases this is not the case and in fact is not even desirable for novices. It is highly unlikely that any student will create something that is original, this is if we even assume that originality is desirable for novices given that their breadth of knowledge is highly unlikely to actually enable them to produce something of a requisite quality to be considered original. Far better is for a teacher to teach with an exemplar in mind and show the process to create this.
Further to this, teachers using command words to identify the progress of learning is again muddled in its assumptions. First of all, not every lesson will result in students reaching the stage of analysis. It may be more meaningful to spend an entire unit simply understanding and remembering- especially if you don’t know anything. Remembering is, in many ways, a serious pursuit of obtaining the most crucial ideas that man has to offer. The idea that a 14-year-old may be able to deconstruct and reassemble these ideas or critique them is at best misguided. It will likely lead to extremely poor lessons as a good chunk of time will be given over to sending students into ‘the wilderness of unknowing.’ To cut a long story short a generic approach to learning is likely at the detriment to the mass of subject specific declarative and procedural knowledge required for mastery.
Another concern would be the amount of teacher time spent of creating these objectives and delivering them to students. A teacher can spend five to ten minutes on creating these headings and that time can be used far better on developing their own expertise. In English this may look like writing a model answer on the poem themselves and looking at likely errors students may make. Delivering objectives to students, by contrast, is highly unlikely to lead to them knowing anything other than what their objective is.
The idea of returning to these objectives as a meaningful task may also be flawed, looking at a slide which tells you the journey you are on is not a particularly useful way of progressing on that journey. To draw an analogy with map reading one would rarely pull the car over and look at the map in order to remind yourself you are heading towards Copenhagen. It is however useful to have a guide sat next to you who knows the exact route. Though any metaphor can break under duress, this one seems particularly useful in the case of Bloom’s orientated less objectives. While it is unquestionably the case that a teacher needs to know the end point and how to guide students there, it is not clear that lesson objectives help students know this route. It may in fact, at least in English be more useful to have them remember a series of scaffolded sentences to support analytical writing, for instance. It is worth pointing out that Bloom’s considers remembering a low-level skill.
Perhaps a more useful way of presenting student progress back to them is by quizzing the knowledge which teachers consider to be pre-requisites or by deconstructing an example of the desired outcome. In English this may mean stopping to show the students an exemplar paragraph before and identifying why it is successful, this can then be used to support student’s self-assessment and further their metacognitive process.
My final concern is that they assume that the lesson is a unit of learning, this can feed into an attitude of performance over learning. For instance, we could teach a lesson in which students are asked at the start of the lesson- what is the capital of Azerbaijan? When they don’t know, we tell them. At the end of the lesson we ask them again, magically they know that it is Baku. However, this knowledge is purely temporary (see, forgetting curve etc.) and so we have in fact observed only performance. This, unfortunately, plays into a confirmation bias which is a prevalent issue in education. We want the students to learn and therefore when they show the performance we want to see we assume they have learnt. This makes us feel good because we feel our teaching is successful and the student is given the gratification of having met your expectation and pleased you.