Student Learning Objectives: Lessons learned
The 2015-16 school year marks the first year of full implementation of South Dakota’s Teacher Effectiveness System. Within the system, evaluated teachers must write Student Learning Objectives (SLOs). The Department of Education has received valuable feedback from educators who have gone through the process:
1. Length of the SLO – Writing an SLO only for a unit or chapter measures whether a target was met, but not necessarily whether student growth occurred. Useful questions for determining the length of an SLO include the following:
• What is the most important learning that needs to occur during my class?
• What do I want students to walk away with at the end of the course?
An SLO should typically last the duration of the instructional period in order to be a measure of growth.
2. Reviewing Data – Identifying students’ strengths and weaknesses helps make the SLO meaningful for teachers and students. A variety of data sources can help teachers select priority content and standards on which to base the SLO:
• Course data from previous years
• State assessment data (a required data source for teachers of
state-tested grades and subjects)
Reviewing data in vertical teams can make the SLO process a valuable opportunity for collaboration. For example, a high school Algebra I teacher could connect with 8th grade math and high school Algebra II teachers; and a 3rd grade teacher could connect with 2nd and 4th grade teachers.
3. Measuring the SLO – A well-written test will give a teacher useful data to drive instruction. A test should include some questions covering ‘precursor’ skills, with the bulk of the test addressing the main skill, and some questions addressing the next level of skills. This will help the teacher understand each student’s starting point and how to differentiate instruction.
4. Differentiated Goals – A differentiated goal is not required, but is recommended in most cases. A differentiated goal establishes tiered expectations for student growth for groups or individual students. Grouping student data may reveal patterns that allow teachers to establish more authentic, differentiated growth goals. Not every student can be expected to reach the same goal, but every student can be expected to grow. Student growth goals should include all students in a given course or class.
5. SLOs take practice – Many teachers have said their first SLO wasn’t very good and they want to make changes to their next SLO. That’s okay! Writing a high quality, useful SLO takes practice. The SLO Process is intended to help teachers determine meaningful, measurable student growth goals that should guide conversations with their administrators. Practicing the process should also allow teachers to see how SLOs tie in with other school initiatives, such as their professional practice evaluations, school-wide and district-wide goals.
The South Dakota Department of Education is offering SLO Refresher Trainings statewide this spring and summer. Whether or not educators have attended an SLO training in the past, they are finding value in these free workshops.
Learn more with this shareable flyer.
Teachers who attended the first training share their feedback in this video.