Post Lesson Outcome-Mining

Recently I wrote this post on aims and objectives and as always with this topic, there will be those that agree and those that disagree. It really seems to polarise our industry in a way that it doesn’t seem to in K-12 teaching (or at least that I’ve come across). I thought it would be interesting to think about that and consider some of the common arguments against knowing and communicating what you want to achieve and it seems to me to boil down to one main issue. The belief that:

Having aims and objectives locks us in and an English language lesson should be free to go wherever the students need it to go.

Now, there are a lot of things I could pull from that. The two sides of the Great Objective Debate could spend hours arguing back and forth with neither giving any ground, like academic Brexiteers and Remainers. But where would that get any of us.

Instead, I mentioned it to my wife and she mentioned that in her industry (grant-giving/management in the charity sector) they always have clear objectives for a project but afterwards they like to sit down and carry out an activity called outcome mining in which they pull out and discuss all of the unintentional outcomes they achieved throughout the project. And as she said it, I wondered if maybe this was a bridge between the two camps.

I in no way believe that one should teach their aims/objectives blindly without thinking about the students in front of them or dealing with interesting language that comes up as a matter of course. I fully believe that the job of the teacher is to react and manage what happens in front of them, ensuring that what they’re teaching is relevant and accessible for the specific students in front of them. But I also believe they (and their students) should know from the beginning of the lesson what they are trying to achieve.

Maybe the perfect world is:

  • Knowing what you want to achieve
  • Communicating it to your students and discussing how you intend to achieve it
  • Being open to your students wanting to achieve it in a different way
  • Being open to unintended outcomes that arise throughout the lesson
  • Spending time at the end of the lesson reflecting on:
    • the achievement of the objectives
    • the unintended outcomes that were achieved.

Outcome mining…food for thought. Thanks Louise.

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