Learning Targets

What are Learning Targets:

If an essential question is the grand quest in a video game, the learning targets are the levels. Learning targets (LTs) are short term, student-friendly goals or statements that clearly state what you expect students to know and be able to do at the end of the lesson(s). In Visible Learning, John Hattie emphasizes the importance of “clearly communicating the intentions of the lessons and the criteria for success.” He emphasizes that for more successful learning teachers and students need to know the goals and success criteria of their lessons, know how well they (students) are progressing, and know where to go next. I think the illustration below really hones in on this idea.

Like the bullseye target above, learning targets help both the students and teacher more precisely assess what is required for mastery and when mastery is reached.

Crafting Learning Targets:

Similar to crafting essential questions, crafting learning targets could be a seperate blog post in itself. However, there are characteristics that make a good learning target. Learning targets should start with the standards, which usually require a break down into the components necessary to master it. From there creating specific objectives and finally turning the objectives into learning target written in student friendly language (e.g., “I can” statements; Moss & Brookhart, 2012) helps create a meaningful LT. A learning target is followed by a performance of understanding. This part outlines how students will demonstrate that they have mastered the LT. The performance of understanding should contain student look fors or “success criteria”, which outlines how students will know if they successful. I like to think of the success criteria like a rubric or exemplars of work for students to use in order to assess their progress for what is expected. You can also model or demonstrate what the learning target is expecting. 


This flowchart shows how to start with the standards and write a LT in student friendly language. (Konrad et al., 2014).

In this example of learning targets broken down into smaller components from from the standards. In this example you can see 4 types of learning targets: knowledge, reasoning, skill, and product targets. (Konrad et al., 2014).

Making Learning Targets Meaningful:

1. Post and Unpack: You can start by posting your learning target, performance of understanding and success criteria (or look fors) so they are visible, then explicitly share the learning target and explain how each of the tasks that are part of the lesson will lead students toward that target. You can discuss each part with your class using the following questions:

  • What words in the learning target are unfamiliar? 

  • What does this LT mean to you? 

  • How could you say the target in your own words?

  • When do you know if you hit the target? 

  • What questions or concerns do you have about the LT? 

  • Is there anything in the LT that you or we have seen before? 


In Moss and Brookhart’s book Learning Targets: Helping Students Aim for Understanding in Today’s Lesson, they include a four-step framework for writing learning targets. This framework “employs a set of “starter prompts” that unpack the learning target, performance of understanding, and success criteria from the student’s point of view” (p. 13). 


Four-Step Framework (Moss, Brookhart. 2012. p.52)

2. Revisit: Revisit the LT throughout the lesson referring to what is expected and how it pertains to the lesson you are working on. Before students begin working on the learning target independently you may discuss: 

  • Do you have any questions or suggestions on how to reach the target?

  • What does quality look like with this the (performance) task?

  • What might your next steps be if you meet the learning target? 


3. Assess: Teachers and students can assess (or self-assess) their progress towards meeting the learning target through observation, conferring, exit tickets, quick visuals like thumbs up/ down or fist to five. Teachers and students may also assess their learning through evaluation using a rubric, checklist, or other criteria. For students doing well on the performance of understanding is the goal, at least at that time and in that place during the lesson. However, for the teacher this is only one indicator of learning. (Moss, Brookhart. 2012. p. 31).


Just like in the levels of a video game you have different targets or goals and ways of receiving feedback, usually immediate feedback on how you are doing. Similarly, learning targets provide students with student friendly objectives that allow teachers to provide specific feedback and students opportunities to reflect on their learning in real time. Students become more engaged in the learning process. 

What is the Coaches Role?


Creating learning targets, performance of understandings and success criteria all play a vital role in students learning. For teachers, planning with this in mind requires time, an understanding of the standards, and the curriculum or unit you are planning or using. As a coach I think that helping teachers understand the role of LT’s is an important first step. Guiding teachers on how to develop meaningful LT’s aligned to the standards and trying to develop similar systems of how LT’s are written and used in the school to create consistency and structure for students vertically from year to year may  be next steps. Being on site to provide PD, plan, answer questions, model, or allowing teachers to come in and observe how LT’s are used in my classroom are ways I could achieve this. 


Hattie, J. (2010). Visible learning: a synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement ; London: Routledge.


Konrad, M., Keesey, S., Ressa, V. A., Alexeeff, M., Chan, P. E., & Peters, M. T. (2014). Setting Clear Learning Targets to Guide Instruction for All Students. Intervention in School and Clinic, 50(2), 76–85. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.spu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip&db=eric&AN=EJ1042120&site=ehost-live


Moss, C. M., & Brookhart, S. M. (2012). Learning targets: helping students aim for understanding in todays lesson. Moorabbin, Victoria: Hawker Brownlow Education


Navigating Learning Targets. (n.d.). Retrieved December 8, 2019, from https://www.newportwildcats.org/docs/Learning%20Targets[2].pdf 

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