Unless you lucked into being one of my students, you have probably never laid eyes on my course objectives. But today, I am releasing them to the public in all their glory. My reason? Because I know they can be better and they’ve been mine too long for me to see them with fresh perspective. If you can use them, great. If you can improve them, even better. If you can’t use them, perfect, please tell me that too. With that being said, first let me get some a couple things out of the way.
First, acknowledgments. The template for the layout of these objectives comes from Cindy Gay. I loved her layout and simple way of organizing concepts. She is an incredible teacher and I don’t want any credit for the organization. Secondly, I’ll credit my high school for providing some objectives and College Board for providing some of the essential knowledge and big idea concepts. They also provided good scaffolding for me in putting these together.
I’ll also provide some context. These are the learning objectives for my freshman general biology class. For what it’s worth mentioning, I’m not sure how these would look “different” for an honors class. In some way that is a loaded statement to me that involves the discussion and analysis of what it means to be a “general” or “honors” students. That may be a post for another day (feel free to start the discussion). These are handed to students on the first day of a new “Big Idea” (the breakdown of how the document is laid out is below) and they use them throughout the rest of the unit. I put them on different colored paper and it’s in landscape, both of which are to emphasize the importance of this document.
Where did I get these objectives from? I got the big ideas and essential knowledge concepts from the College Board Standards for College Success (Life Science portion). These were written by College Board in 2009 as prerequisite knowledge before heading into AP. Now, is College Board a perfect source for content standards? No. But I do like as an AP Biology teacher that I can hold students to standards that can align with AP Biology so that my students can have a good foundational understanding while also being prepared for higher level science classes. It’s also nice for me to use similar terminology with both my freshman and AP classes, such as objective, big idea, essential knowledge, etc.
So finally, before I unveil these statements I want to set up some ground rules and requests:
- These are not meant to be consumed without purposeful thought. I adapted, revised, and chose these standards as they fit myself as a teacher and my students as learners. I would assume the same would need to be done on your part.
- These have no inherit order. They are ordered in the general trajectory I use in my class BUT I am not tied to that order, nor have I successfully created a conceptual flow graphic (again, another topic for another day; ask me about it if you would like) for these units like I have with some of my AP Biology units. Have an idea on moving concepts around? Let me know!
- Speaking of letting me know, I would LOVE your feedback on the objectives. You know what? I would love feedback so much I’ve created a 3 question survey that you can add your feedback to that will go straight to me. Thanks in advance!
With that all out of the way, here is how you view/digest the objectives.
A side note: if you are familiar with the AP Biology Redesign then some of this terminology may be familiar to you.
- There are 5 Big Ideas in *my* biology class: Ecology, Energy & Matter, Cells, Genetics, and Evolution. They are ordered based of their order in my year, I will say I’m not married to they way I teach it now, I’m personally partial to the order of AP Biology, which starts with Evolution. Another discussion point, I’m sure.
- The Forever Understanding is the the major concepts that students will understand by the end of the unit. I generally have them read these before we start and then after the unit they will reread them and try to go back through their objectives sheet and find “evidence” of where they learned these concepts (sort of like a Claims-Evidence-Reasoning and Concept Map hybrid).
- The Essential Knowledge portion is a sub-concept that stands on its own. Basically, I consider these to be the bite-size concepts that a student could learn in 1-2 days (depending of course on the lesson itself)
- The Topic is just an organizing tool created by College Board that I liked and kept.
- Text Ref refers to the “textbook reference”. It’s where I put the chapter or section information. On my digital version for students I’ve linked electronically to supplemental resources or to their online textbook.
- The Learning Objective is probably the statement of most importance to the student because it is actually the way I want students to be able to apply their essential knowledge. It is supposed to be written in “student-friendly” language with highlighted performance/action verbs. These were chosen purposefully and are not throw away statements.
- The Unpack section is where students make sense of the objective in their own words. I should emphasize it is NOT a note–taking section. It is for synthesis, not note-taking. That minor point is still an area of issue with my students.
- The Self-Score box is where students rank their understanding from 1 (little understanding) to 4 (mastery). Generally I tell students 2 = I can get full understanding with help and 3 = full understanding. Mastery level is where students not only can explain it but they can also apply it too.
I believe that, my friends, is all I have to say. Please, I provide these here for the community’s use but if any of you do use them and you have something to add (Maybe you improve them or maybe they’re awful and you can explain why) I would love to hear it. Enjoy!
- BIG IDEA 1 – ECOLOGY
- BIG IDEA 2 – MATTER & ENERGY
- BIG IDEA 3 – CELLS
- BIG IDEA 4 – GENETICS
- BIG IDEA 5 – EVOLUTION