The teacher approached the front of the room, turned to face his audience, and then began to talk. And talk. He handed out an “outline” of her talk, which consisted of a list of quotes from a book. He occasionally asked a question, received one response, and then he’d state her opinion (which often contradicted the view offered) and move on to the next quote. When the 30 minutes ended, I wasn’t clear on what the point was, a view shared by others nearby (based on what we overheard).
At my Teach Like You Believe It seminars, and in my teaching at Bethel College, I have been surprised at the struggle people have toward developing clear objectivse for their teaching, often called teaching aims. Tonight thousands of youth workers will stand in front of a group of teenagers and teach. If each developed beforehand a single sentence that defined what they wanted to accomplish, they could then do one final “edit” on their lesson (discussion, lecture, small groups) and evaluate potential effectiveness. But evidently many don’t develop their aim.
There are three main aims we have:
- CONTENT AIM - We desire to teach an area of knowledge so that students “know,” “understand,” or “learn.” Notice the student focus here. It’s not, “I want to teach students ____” or “We will expose you to the truths of _____.” But the measurement is on what students gain/do when you’re finished.
- ACTION AIM - students (usually) learn by doing with this aim, but the definitive mark is that they’ve learned once they demonstrate some action.
- INSPIRATION AIM – this is motivational in nature, not just a “feeling.” We sometimes confuse this emotions, but it’s more about connecting with learners’ passions.
STEP ONE is to develop the aim, using a basic sentence, “As a result of this ___________, students will ______________________.” STEP TWO is to then look over your lesson to check that each element moves students toward that objective. Of course you may have elements for their own sake (e.g. worship, fun), but generally the teaching elements needs to help your aim. STEP THREE is to evaluate when it’s over whether you hit your target. Guess how you do that? By listening to students.
Working on your aim is a foundational step toward better teaching. It’s not that difficult to do, but it does take time and energy and many give up. And their teaching suffers.
AIM WELL! TEACH WELL!