Preparing to Teach

 

 

 

 

For the past couple of decades new agent trainings in Texas have included teaching new Extension agents teaching is a four-step process.  This process is also taught in most university teacher preparation programs including our agricultural science program at West Texas A&M.  The four steps we cover are as follows:  1) Preparation, 2) Presentation, 3) Application, and 4) Evaluation.  Under preparation, we often describe this step as having a Part A and a Part B.  Part A is preparing the teacher.  Part B is preparing the learner.  Both of these parts are going to be critical to effective teaching.  Today we are going to focus on Part A, preparing the teacher.   Specifically we will highlight the importance of educational objectives, and how to properly write and utilize these objectives in our teaching.  Below are highlights of this subject.

No great teacher ever walked into a classroom without a plan.  Now, what this actual plan may look like can vary greatly.  In an experienced teacher, this plan may be 80% mental, and with a younger teacher it may be 80% written.  Either way a great teacher will be prepared!  This preparation will start with first knowing your audience followed by identifying and developing your lesson’s objectives.  The lesson’s objectives can be thought of as your goals, or targets for what you are teaching.  These objectives will serve as a road map to help in developing your entire lesson when done correctly.  To best do this, start with Bloom’s Taxonomy (2001) as a guide.

In the 1950’s Benjamin S. Bloom introduced Bloom’s taxonomy which included three primary learning domains of cognitive (mental), affective (emotional), and psychomotor (physical).  For our purposes today, we will focus on the cognitive domain.   Bloom (1956) first divided the cognitive domain into six dimensions of 1) Knowledge, 2) Comprehension, 3) Application, 4) Analysis, 5) Synthesis, and 6) Evaluation.  The separate dimensions were designed so that as a person is first introduced to a topic they will need to learn in the basic knowledge level.  This would include learning definitions, identifying basic parts or schematics, or simply put, a person is introduced to baseline information.  In the knowledge level, much of what a person learns is simple recall of facts and information.  As a person does grow in the learning process, he or she should move up through the different learning dimensions.  We often refer to the first three of these dimensions as lower-order thinking skills (LOTS) and the second set of three as higher-order thinking skills (HOTS).  With higher-order thinking skills, the learner will start applying more critical thinking and problem solving skills.  As a teacher, these higher order-thinking skills are not always easy to teach and proper planning will be critical to achieve these objectives or goals.

In 2001, a set of educational psychologists revised Bloom’s original work (Krathwohl, 2002) and modified the original six dimensions.  The six new dimensions followed the same ideology of the learner growing through each dimension with lower-order thinking skills followed by higher-order thinking skills.  The six new dimensions of Bloom’s Taxonomy are labeled as:  1) Remembering,2) Understanding, 3)Applying, 4) Analyzing, 5) Evaluating, and 6) Creating.  The figure below further introduces these six dimensions along with action words, which will be the basis for well-written objectives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The action verbs listed are critical in developing teaching objectives that are measurable.  For a traditional teaching lesson, you will most likely need three to five educational objectives.  These three to five objectives will typically cover a lesson that is 50 to 90 minutes in length.  These objectives should guide everything you do in that teaching period.  In introductory teaching sessions, you will most likely pull action words from the first three domains of remember, understand, and apply.   As you move into more advanced teachings, you will utilize those action words from the categories of analyze, evaluate, and create.  Here are some examples of some basic educational objectives, which might guide a variety of lessons.  These objectives will follow the statement below.

After completion of this lesson, the student (learner) should be able to:

  1. Define the term leadership. (Remember)
  2. Select a best consumer purchase based on a given scenario. (Understand)
  3. Calculate a correct herbicide mixture for a given weed spray. (Apply)
  4. Demonstrate proper safety procedures in use of archery equipment. (Analyze)
  5. Assess the differences between two food groups. (Evaluate)
  6. Develop a business plan. (Create)

Above are some very basic examples of educational objectives.  These objectives represent both lower-order thinking skills and higher-order thinking skills within the cognitive domain.  As you look at any one of the six examples, you will see the construction of an educational objective is simple.  When developing your own educational objectives, first think about what your goal or target is and how advanced it might be.  Once you know your focus, refer to Bloom for a suitable action verb that will guide the individual objective.  Next, follow this action verb with what it is you want your students to accomplish within the lesson.  Once you have these two parts combined, you should have a measurable objective.  This objective should guide the remainder of your lesson planning or teacher preparation.

Finally, it is important to remember educational objectives are a critical part of teaching.  These objectives will guide everything you do in terms of teaching deliveries, activities, and assessments.  If you are doing something that does not relate back to your objective, you are probably off target.  As you start preparing to teach in your community start with your objectives in mind!  As we move forward, we will provide you with how to prepare the rest of the lesson.  Up next will be preparing the student.  In the meantime, here is a final checklist to help you in writing your educational objectives.

  1. Start with the end in mind! Determine what you want your students to be able to do at the end of the lesson.
  2. Distinguish between lower-order thinking skills and higher-order thinking skills. Consider your audience.
  3. Select the proper action verb from Bloom’s Taxonomy. Avoid words like know, learn, and understand in your writing.  These words are hard to measure.
  4. Combine your action verb with what you want to accomplish.
  5. Develop your lesson from your well-written objectives!

 References: 

Anderson, L., & Krathwohl, D. (2001).  A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing:  A revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of educational objectives:  Complete edition. New York:  Longman.

Bloom, B., & Krathwohl, D. (1956).  Taxonomy of educational objectives:  The classification of educational goals, by a committee of college and university examiners.  Handbook 1:  Cognitive Domain.  New York, Longmans.

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