Learning Targets and the Use of “Target Trackers” in U.S. History

Katherine Lanning, Rush-Henrietta Senior High School

Are you searching for methods to improve student achievement? Would you like to see your students more engaged and accountable for their own learning? If so, read my action research report to learn more about:
(1) How to integrate daily lesson “targets”
(2) How students can use these targets to monitor their own progress
(3) How self-assessment encourages student accountability and raises achievement
(4) How teachers can use targets to make responsive and informed instructional decisions

As a veteran high school U.S. History teacher, I’ve tinkered with many instructional changes, but I was looking for strategies with a greater “cultural” impact. While my students have typically performed well on their state assessments, I was looking for research-based practices to improve student achievement and “mastery” of content. At the same time, with the implementation of the CCLS, I wanted to develop a classroom approach to instruction that reflected the new standards and the importance of academic vocabulary. A third goal was to increase student engagement and accountability. While my lessons were structured and purposeful, and my students were “busy” and cooperative, I felt that my students needed to become more active partners in the process.

This fall, I made some instructional changes which involved the implementation of “Learning Targets” and the use of a student log sheet known as a “Target Tracker”. “I can” statements were used daily to provide clarity for learning goals, with an emphasis on embedding academic vocabulary within social studies content. Assessments were designed to measure student progress in relation to the learning targets, and instructional decisions were made based upon the results of these assessments.

Analysis of student test scores and a modified student “tripod” survey showed that there was a positive shift in students’ attitudes and a significant increase in “mastery” achievement. As learning goals became more visible and internalized by students, they assumed greater responsibility for their own learning, which in turn seemed to have an impact on their academic performance. While my research was designed primarily to examine the impact of learning targets on students, the impact on my teaching was equally profound.


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