2. Develop Learning Goals

The learning goal is the backbone of a lesson and provides the “reason” for teaching and observing it.

Teams start by discussing important student learning goals—desired forms of student learning, thinking, engagement, and behavior. A lesson study typically focuses on a significant developmental learning goal that encompasses intellectual capacities, habits of mind, and qualities of character. But the lesson also addresses immediate academic or disciplinary goals. For example, a biology lesson that focuses on developing students’ scientific reasoning (a broad developmental goal) may also aim to develop students knowledge of meiosis and mitosis (a narrower lesson-specific goal).

Teams also discuss subject matter—the concepts and topics—on which their lesson will be based. Many are drawn to topics that are particularly difficult for students to learn, or that are especially important in the course or their fields.

To get the most out of the lesson study experience teams should focus their lesson on a broad, developmental goal and lesson-specific goals.

Q & A

Are learning goals the same as teaching goals?

Teaching goals and learning goals are not the same thing. Learning goals specify student habits of mind, intellectual capacities, personal qualities—in essence what students will know, what they can do and what they will be like. Teaching goals focus on what teachers do (e.g., to explain specific content to students). The practice of lesson study involves a shift from teaching goals to learning goals—on what students learn from the lesson and how their thinking changes.

How does goal setting promote ownership of the lesson?

Ideally, each team member will feel as though he or she owns the lesson, even if it is initially based on what one teacher does in his or her class. The idea is to design a lesson that could be taught, with only minor modifications, by each instructor. Time spent up front in this phase of lesson study enhances commitment to the goal and makes the overall inquiry process more meaningful for all involved.

Do goals focus solely on academic learning?

Learning goals can include the development of values, habits of mind, and dispositions as well. For example, in some courses instructors may try to foster such qualities as empathy, tolerance for ambiguity, persistence, creativity, metacognition, or collaboration. A single lesson will not fully accomplish goals like these but it can address them in substantive ways.

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Lesson Study Project

Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
1725 State Street
La Crosse, WI 54601