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Aurora Institute

Learner-Centered Tip of the Week: Making Targets Visible…Really

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Courtney Belolan

Issue(s): Issues in Practice, Rethink Instruction

aimThis post originally appeared on Courtney Belolan’s website on October 18, 2016. Belolan is the instructional coach for RSU2 in Maine.

We all know that making learning transparent is a key element of learner-centered proficiency based education. We’ve all gotten the memo: have targets posted. Many people have even taken posting targets a step further and posted all the learning targets for an entire project, course, or year. All of these methods can be a solid part of making learning targets and progressions visible to learners. The important thing to remember is that making learning really visible is about much more than simply slapping a learning target up on the wall; It is about developing learner agency. When learners know what it is they are supposed to be learning, and where that fits in the bigger picture of what they have to learn, motivation and engagement go way up.

If the goal is supporting learner agency, and not simply the posting of the target, we have to think differently about how we use targets. As a start, here are some target-posting pitfalls to be aware of, and some ideas about how to sidestep them and make the learning truly visible.

Pitfall #1: They Are Posted, And Rarely or Never Referred To

The point of having learning targets, or anything really, on the walls of a classroom is to have a visual reminder for learners. But anything that gets put up on the walls and ignored might as well be old wallpaper. Relying on the off chance that learners will notice or refer to them, even after being shown where they are, is not a successful strategy.


  • Have a consistent place in the room where current targets are posted
  • Point to the posted learning targets whenever you mention them
  • Mention the current learning targets at the start of every lesson

Pitfall #2: They Are Posted, And Are Too Small To Read From The Class Seats

What good is a visual reminder that you can’t see unless you are standing right in front of it? If the only place targets can be accessed is on a small piece of paper on the wall, then they really aren’t accessible. Learning targets are at the center of everything learners are taking in, processing, and demonstrating. They need to be hard to miss.


  • If you have all of the targets for the year arranges in a map of sorts for the year, post a second set of current targets somewhere in the room
  • Write the current targets on the top of the board
  • Use a matrix, or include the learning target on any resources and work
  • Mention the current learning targets at the start of every lesson

Pitfall #3: The Posted Targets Are Out of Date

Chances are many the targets you posted last year will not match many of the targets in the learning management system this year. Any discrepancy will lead to confusion for learners, teachers, and parents alike.


  • Make posting the current targets a regular classroom job
  • Make new target posters each year

These are not the only pitfalls, and surely not the only sidesteps. Remember that the point of posting learning targets is about supporting transparency of learning. Our learners need a variety of avenues for accessing and understanding learning targets and progressions, so providing visual aids by clearly posting targets is only one way to do that. We also need to talk about the targets, refer to them, and reflect on them with our students every day.

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Courtney Belolan works at RSU 2 in Maine where she supports K-12 teachers with performance-based, individualized learning. Courtney works closely with teams and teachers as a coach, and with the school and district leadership teams as an instructional strategist. Courtney has worked as a 6-12 literacy and instructional coach, a middle level ELA teacher, an environmental educator, and a digital literacy coach. Her core beliefs include the idea that the best education is one centered on student passions and rooted in interdisciplinary applications, and that enjoying learning is just as important as the learning itself.