What is the Point of Copying Lesson Objectives? by @rpd1972

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Lesson Objectives Debra Kidd


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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This is a blog about action research and the purpose of Lesson Objectives used in teaching and learning.


  1. Do leadership teams really want their teachers to write lesson objectives on the board and have them on display, every lesson?
  2. Do we really want our students copying them off the board and into their books? Every lesson? And every day?
  3. Do we fear what Ofsted want? Is this, yet another myth, to enable students to speak what they are learning in lesson (to provide evidence)?

Take a look at this tweet I shared over Christmas 2014, from @DebraKidd‘s first book; Notes From the Front Line: (note the typo in my tweet, which should have said, ‘year’ not ‘week’). The quote from Debra’s book caused quite a stir, reaching over 260 retweets on Twitter!

Debra Kidd Lesson Objectives

At our school, we have encouraged all our teachers to avoid students copying lesson objectives in lessons. We have also asked them not to complete lesson plans. We have also removed lesson gradings. We have increased the number of hours the school provides CPD for all staff and have just introduced a wellbeing curfew.

The following blog, is written by Rachel Preece-Dawson and forms part of her MA action research on this very topic.

L dot O dot:

When I started as an NQT, I was looking for something to research for the final year of my MA. It needed to be something I felt strongly about and something that could “contribute to new thinking.” Within a week of starting at my NQT school, it was handed to me on a plate. In one of my very first lessons, I asked a pupil at the end of the lesson if he could explain what he had learned. He said, “L dot O dot …” and then told me what he thought he’d learned. I asked him what ‘L dot O dot’ meant and he said he ‘didn’t know’, but that “this is what the teacher always says.”

One of the ‘non-negotiables’ at the school was that three, differentiated (LO) Learning Objectives which were to be shared with children at the very beginning of every lesson, and that they copied them down into their books, whatever the lesson. The children were ability grouped at the beginning of the year and labelled ‘red’, ‘orange’ or ‘green’; and whatever grouping they were assigned to, that was the L.O. they copied out. At the end of each lesson, the teacher ticked or ‘dotted’ the L.O. to say whether or not the child had met the objective. When books were scrutinised (and wow, were they scrutinised!) if too many L.O.s had been ticked, work was not challenging enough. If not enough L.O.s were ticked, support and differentiation were not good enough …

I wondered what impact the non-negotiables had on children’s attitudes to their learning and decided to explore this further from the perspective of the pupils. This formed the basis of my MA action research and subsequent thesis. I held focus groups of children in my Y4/5/6 class; kept a teaching and learning journal; interviewed headteachers from a range of primary schools; sent questionnaires to all primary headteachers within the county and had a long conversation with Shirley Clarke (of the WALT and WILF acronyms). I examined the literature with a fine-tooth comb; spoke to a representative from OfSTED and observed the attitudes to learning of the children in my class, especially when I broke the rules and did things a little differently from what they were used to.

Action Research:

At the time, I summarised the findings of my action research as follows:

“The overwhelming message from both findings and literature, seems to be that pupils and headteachers have very different perceptions of L.O.s and very different understanding of their function. What seems to be of importance to the setting, is of little relevance according to the pupils. Further, the headteachers within the LA, perceive L.O.s as beneficial in focusing pupils, whilst pupils comment that L.O.s can actually put them off learning and make them “switch off” from lessons.

The findings and the literature both show that there is a general notion that schools perceive external accountability to be a driving factor in shaping practice, and yet the frameworks which oversee school inspections are ambiguous in describing expectations. It is interesting, therefore, that the least amount of prescription within the LA is seen in those schools deemed ‘outstanding’ in Ofsted terms.

It is also of significance, that the literature paints a picture of many schools engaging in “surface level” formative assessment: the findings also suggest that there is a lack of deeper understanding of the principles and what is needed to embed formative assessment effectively. Indeed, the findings show that when children engage with the strategies on a deeper level, they are able to reflect more accurately, and with more ownership and engagement, on their own learning.

Further, although pupil perception of differentiation was not a focus of the research, the findings show that pupils have very strong feelings about explicit differentiation: possibly providing a focus for future research.”


The recent Twitter thread @TeacherToolkit shared at the start of this blog, over-spilled into a Facebook conversation which showed that there continues to be prescription within schools about how and when L.O.s should be shared with children, and whether or not they need to be copied into books. I decided to tweet a quick straw poll to find out the current situation:

Lesson Objectives Twitter

At the time of writing, Rachel had 127 responses via tweets and DMs. Of those, 122 respondents replied ‘Yes’ and 5, ‘No’. DMs on Twitter referred to teachers “cheating”, by typing out L.O.s for children, or how teachers were marked down during lesson observations for not getting children to copy out L.Os into books! There were 86 mentions of this being done to provide evidence of learning (yes, I did question how writing out, ‘L.O I can…’ provides evidence of learning), and 38 mentions L.Os. being used so that children know what they are learning. Again, I questioned whether copying out, “L.O. I can…’ is the only means of sharing with children what they are learning.


If you would like to get in touch with Rachel about her research, please email here.

Notes From the Front Line:

I am thoroughly enjoying Debra’s book. It echoes must of what I have to say about education. It’s a must read from me and I will be blogging fuller details this half-term. To find out more, read Debra Kidd’s book (click the image):

Debra Kidd Teaching-note-from-the-front-line-angle

11 thoughts on “What is the Point of Copying Lesson Objectives? by @rpd1972

  1. One of the country’s leading experts in differentiation and Dyslexia, Neil Mackay has been rock solid about differentiation for years, in short pushing teachers to allow their children to choose route/way of working to the same destination. Much better than different tasks etc.

  2. I’m still sitting on the fence on this one a bit. However, if I didn’t have a learning objective, then I would have a title of some sort so I’m not totally convinced by the hours wasted argument. I do agree that children getting used to doing things parrot fashion is not helpful at all and make sure that I always refer to it as a learning objective and explain it to my class. I also do not have differentiated learning objectives but try to make sure that my children have differentiated work within the same one. Having said that, I’m not a huge fan of differentiated activities either!

  3. Hi. Please could you elaborate on “We have also asked them not to complete lesson plans.”? I am curious as to what kind of planning teachers do. Many thanks. Gaz

      1. Private schools Inspectorate preference to see (optional) is
        Description of what preceded the current lesson and basic description of the lesson contents – probably no more than 1 short para, plus numbers of boys/girls in the lesson and what A,G&T/SEND issues there are.

        Our focus is always on the Learning evident – from which we can deduce much in terms of Achievement and Teaching. Never ever any lesson grade given to the teacher from our judgements – but 5 minutes of professional dialogue either at the end of the lesson or later in the day, at the teacher’s request assists in settling their fears most of the time.

  4. My lesson titles tend to be descriptive, I use ‘to be able to’ rather than L.O and never ask students to write them down. I very quickly run through what the lesson will cover so that I can canvas existing knowledge and ideas, but really that’s about it. I asked several year 10 & 11 classes wether they found lesson objectives useful and the general (all be it, anecdotal) opinion was that it seemed to take up time they could be learning in…
    What happens if you get sidetracked in a lesson? What happens if some misconception gets thrown up? What happens if it turns on the dawning light that actually students already know this stuff just that they didn’t recognise it when initially asked? Where does the ten minutes at the start of the lesson copying down LOs get you? A set of notes or activities completely unrelated or only loosely linked to them and potential questions on a book scrutiny…
    Personally, I will stick to sharing on a white board or talking the big picture through and spend the extra ten minutes sitting with the child who needs my help, enthusiasm, encouragement or extension most.

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