How does setting goals contribute to understanding the big picture and performance in the classroom? Understanding the big picture and performance starts by distinguishing and defining surface learning and deep learning. According to Dr. Maryellen Weimer’s blog from the Faculty Focus website, surface learning is “cognitively passive learning behavior” while deep learning is “cognitively active learning behavior.” Passive learning strategies include the memorization of words or study practices that are not likely to go beyond the basic requirements of attending class. Deep learning strategies include an investigative process for solving problems. I use Barkley’s Student Engagement Technique 43 to show that the big picture and understanding the process for solving problems is meaningful for students.
Begin the academic term with the end of the academic term in mind (Barkley 2010, p. 334). Teachers’ goals sometimes differ from student goals. This means that teachers must recognize sometimes that adjusting their goals to align with student goals collectively or individually is part of the process of learning. SET 43 can be reused throughout the course or term to monitor progress in the alignment of goals for students, teachers and departments (Barkley 2010, pgs. 332-335). Teachers should guide students to construct specific goal inventories to monitor progress throughout the term (Barkley 2010, p. 334). Students and teachers together accomplish tasks that reflect goals and communicate the results creatively and critically to others.
Backwards planning is the same as beginning with the end in mind (Bain 2004, p. 50). For example, graduation is the overarching objective for student Dizzy Dolphin (Bain 2004, p. 144). Dizzy should accept that graduation from the university requires completion of a Capstone course first from the university as a senior. Then, Dizzy should determine all the prerequisites that the Capstone course requires as a junior class student, all the prerequisites required as a sophomore class student and all the prerequisites required as a freshman class student in that order. Each class level has a different set of tasks that need completion before moving forward to the next level of coursework (Barkley 2010; 334). Each course requires a student to perform well on any given academic tasks. Surface learning strategies for students include performing well on exams to meet requirements for each course or prerequisite on the path toward graduation (Barkley 2010, p. 333).
Barkley (p. 334) says to use the Teaching Goals Inventory developed by Angelo and Cross. This TGI helps students to set goals that enhance learning through “improving writing skills, developing analytical skills, developing the ability to think creatively, developing concern for social issues, and developing an ability to organize time effectively.” Additionally, “higher order thinking skills, basic academic success skills, discipline specific knowledge and skills and personal development” are among the clusters of goals that Angelo and Cross described (Barkley 2010, p. 334; Angelo and Cross 1993, pgs. 15-19). The TGI could be used as part of each incremental step for teachers to guide students toward the achievement of their goals in the long run and the short run.
Goal theory works (Locke and Latham 1990). The application of goals in the classroom is meant to help students move past just performing in the classroom and toward learning the significance of the process (Barkley 2010, p. 333). Understanding the significance of the process is similar to watching the big picture unfold. According to Barkley, students more concerned with performing well on exams to increase their reputation or social status are less likely to understand the big picture. The use of formative assessment techniques could help teachers to align the big picture goals of students with the goals or objectives of the class.
Active learning becomes more than memorization. Teachers that implement activities intend to develop students’ abilities to acquire the knowledge, skills and understanding in the process for learning (Barkley 2010, p. 335). Students and teachers focused on deep learning strategies are likely to ask, “what can be gleaned from this experience?” What is the most important part of this learning process? What skills and abilities should I take away from this discipline after the experience is complete? How clear should my goals be? How do I measure my goals? What are the key takeaways from this process that I am likely to reflect on tomorrow? Next week? Next year? Five years from now? Even ten? Or some other indefinite period in the future?
Student discovery of knowledge and deep learning processes increase competence, skill and ability (Boyer 1990). According to the NEBO Blog the pursuit of mastery goals increases competence and the pursuit of performance goals increases skill and ability for the subject. The DePaul University resources web site explains that course objectives contain the material and other learning processes and tools that teachers cover in a course. Learning outcomes are the actionable observations that students are expected to articulate at the conclusion of a course. Dr. Maryellen Weimer concludes that teachers provide the tools to students so that students discover knowledge for themselves.
Angelo, Thomas A. and K. Patricia Cross. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques A Handbook for College Teachers. San Francisco, CA: The Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series – John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Bain, Ken. (2004). what the best college teachers do. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Barkley, Elizabeth F. (2010). Student Engagement Techniques A Handbook for College Faculty. San Francisco, CA: The Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series – John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Boyer, Ernest L. (1990). Scholarship Reconsidered Priorities of the Professoriate. Princeton, NJ: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
DePaul University Teaching Commons. (2018). “Course Objectives and Learning Outcomes.” From Resources https://resources.depaul.edu/teaching-commons/teaching-guides/course-design/Pages/course-objectives-learning-outcomes.aspx (Retreived February 21).
Harrell, Adam. (2010). “Mastery versus Performance Goals: Why the Type of Goal You Set Matters.” From NEBO Blog http://www.neboagency.com/blog/types-goals-set-important-goals/ (February 23).
Locke, E.A., Latham, G.P. (1990). A theory of goal setting and task performance. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Weimer, Maryellen. (2012). “Deep Learning versus Surface Learning Getting Students to Understand the Difference” From Faculty Focus Higher Ed Teaching Strategies from Magna Publications, https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/deep-learning-vs-surface-learning-getting-students-to-understand-the-difference/ (November 19).
Young, Akeisha. (2018). “Arc of Higher Education Teaching” blog. From https://arcofhighereducationteaching.wordpress.com/.