What Do Teachers Do? Focusing Your Lessons with Objectives

by Peter Goertzen

How do you prepare to teach a class? How do you know what lectures, questions, and activities to include? It all starts with the objective, says Peter. He describes the value of a clear statement of purpose to focus the act of teaching, and ends with an encouragement: start with the objectives the textbook gives.

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What do teachers do? Well, yeah, if I wouldn’t have been introduced to the concept of objectives, I might have had a hard time answering that question. But with that concept, I was able to know at least what I should be doing, what I should be seeking to do. If it wouldn’t have been for that, I can easily imagine myself having no idea what to do.

Especially [helpful is] the concept of Bloom’s taxonomy. Knowledge, and more importantly the ability use knowledge, builds upon itself. We take what we know about this knowledge-building process that helps us to know where to start with our students. It helps us to get a clear understanding of what we want to accomplish.

The format that I was taught here at Faith Builders and that I found very helpful was: the student will perform some action, whether it be to be able to repeat some information at the lowest level, to being able to evaluate material or analyze material, and yeah, perform different actions that demonstrate that they have learned. The student will do these things that then I can measure later on to see if I’ve been successful.

But learning to write objectives helped me, as I was starting to teach, to know what my goal should be, to have a plan as I started my day of school, as I started my lessons, and then figuring out how I can help the student reach that goal; [it helped] to keep me focused and know what my job was as a teacher as I was getting started. That’s the start to accomplishing anything. I guess you accomplish some things by accident, but not very much. So yeah, I knew what I was trying to do then, which it seems very simple. In a way it is, but that’s where you have to start.

It keeps you from having to spin your wheels and generating a lot of activity without a purpose. When I have objectives, I’m not just doing things and hoping that some of them will be productive. I have a goal in mind, and I can ask myself, “What can I do in order to meet that goal?” And I can focus on doing those things instead of trying to figure out what to do and trying this and trying that without having any idea of what I’m doing.

So it does take effort to sit down with the teaching materials I have, my textbooks, other materials, and ask myself “What do I want to accomplish here?” So yeah, that certainly takes effort, but it’s more than worth it in focusing the efforts that I put forth and saving me the trouble of pointless activity.

Should you use the objectives in the textbook?

Talking about being a first year teacher, I think you should. If you have them there, then take them and run with them instead of trying to reinvent the wheel. I know that’s a mistake that I made early in my teaching career: not taking advantage of the work that was already done by the curriculum publishers, instead thinking that I can do it better, and turns out, I couldn’t actually—in most the cases at least.

Now, as I developed in my teaching, then I started to gain a clearer sense of what I want to accomplish that might be different than what the curriculum publishers wanted to accomplish. It could be that I learned more about the context that my students are living in, which might be different than the context that the curriculum publishers had in mind, and so I need to make adjustments accordingly. Sometimes they’re wrong, and I think I can say that sometimes, it’s my responsibility actually as a teacher. When I have warrant to improve upon what’s been done, it’s my responsibility to do that, and I can do that with increasing confidence as I continue to gain knowledge and experience, but I should have done that more gradually and perhaps even still do it more gradually than I do.

To start out, use what you’re given, and then you can modify and improve that as you gain experience and skill.

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CONTRIBUTOR: Peter Goertzen

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