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Learning Targets: Why Elena Chose to Create Her Own

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    Alexis Margolin

This piece, originally featured in the EL National Conference 2014 newsletter, Signpost, was written by Elena Fulton. Elena graduated from the Odyssey School of Denver in 2011 and is now a senior at East High School in Denver, CO.

The transition from middle school to high school is always a bumpy one for an eighth grader. Now, as a senior in a comprehensive high school in Denver, I am grateful for the habits I acquired before coming into this new world where the expectations have shifted, and the learning goals are more of a mystery.

I came from the Odyssey School of Denver where learning targets are reinforced to the point that they become a part of everyday life at school. It is rare to walk into a classroom at Odyssey and see a blank white board. Learning targets guided and supported my learning for all of my nine years, and by the time I graduated, I could not bear to part with them. In fact, it had not even occurred to me that traditional public schools don’t use learning targets regularly, if at all. Walking into my first class freshman year and seeing the rows of desks I had only seen in movies, I felt slightly lost. Almost without thinking, I created a target for myself based on the writing prompt and reading assignment on the board. It felt normal to write a target when one was not assigned, so I did it for all of the classes that followed. I needed no reassurance that making targets would work well for me because I had been taught the power of purpose.

By creating my own targets, I began to realize that I was no longer relying on my teacher to tell me what I needed to focus on. I became more self-assured, knowing exactly what I could expect from myself. I noticed that I could adjust the ambitiousness of my target based on my workload, the complexity of the content, or even my “tiredness” level on a particular day. To this day, I know that even when the expectations are not always clear, I can create impactful learning for myself.