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It’s all about the Learning not the Doing…


Why Learning Intentions????

Learning intentions


This Professional Learning module focuses on the importance of making explicit for students what they are going to learn. The learning intention (or objective) for a lesson or series of lessons is a statement which describes clearly what the teacher wants the students to


  • know
  • understand; and
  • be able to do


as a result of the learning and teaching activities.


The teacher knows why the students are engaged in a particular activity, but the students are not always able to differentiate between the activity and the learning that it is meant to promote. A carefully framed learning intention will direct students’ attention to the learning. The learning intention emphasises what the students will learn, rather than what they will do.


The teacher shares this learning intention with her students, either orally or in writing. Sometimes the learning intention is written on the board and shared with students at the beginning of a lesson or unit. At other times it is not mentioned until after the engagement activity.


The learning intention could also be called the learning objective or goal. The terminology is not important, but the purpose certainly is.


The following links explore learning intentions in more detail.



When students know the learning intention of a lesson, they

  • are helped to focus on the purpose of the activity, rather than simply completing the activity;
  • know where to focus their efforts – ie which part of the activity actually encompasses the learning;
  • are more likely to stay ‘on task’ and less likely to be confused or distracted;
  • can take more responsibility for learning.

Focusing on the learning – the skills, knowledge and understanding – rather than on the context has the advantage of making it more likely that students will be able to transfer their learning from one context to another.

Examples of learning intentions

The learning intention is expressed in terms of knowledge, understanding and skills, and links directly with the relevant curriculum document.

The design of learning intentions starts with the answers to these questions.

  • What do I want students to know?
  • What do I want students to understand?
  • What do I want students to be able to do?

A certain challenge exists for teachers in translating the knowledge, understanding and skills of a published curriculum into learning intentions whose language is accessible to their students, but time spent on this preliminary step is in itself excellent professional learning.

Some schools have made this ‘unpacking’ of the curriculum a focus of teacher meetings. The result, they claim, is that all teachers have a much better understanding of the curriculum itself, and there is an increased confidence in the consistent quality of teaching across classes.



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