Focusing: Tools and approaches

Ideas you can choose from and adapt for your situation.

General suggestions

  • Sometimes high leverage comes from combining foci, for example, deepening understanding and addressing social-emotional issues in mathematics.
  • Find a focus everyone can buy into, for example, in secondary schools enhancing metacognition, resilience, or structuring paragraphs in written language.
  • Look ahead to the checking phase to gather sufficient evidence to answer the question, "Have we made enough of a difference?"

Identifying a focus

Here is a simple template you can use to help you to identify your focus.

Template for focusing (Word 2007 19 kB)

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Setting goals and targets

At this stage you need to need to set goals and targets so you can answer the question in the checking phase “Have we made enough of a difference?”

“If you aim at nothing you will hit it every time. High expectations lead to high success.”

Prepare evidence

Make sure the evidence you have is specific and disaggregated by groups, and you know exactly which students will be included in your focused efforts. This evidence can serve as your baseline. Then develop your goals and targets.

Motivating goals

The purpose of having goals and targets is to motivate improvement. Goals and targets are motivating when:

  • they are specific, realistic, help everyone to focus, and are seen to be achievable
  • those involved in achieving them believe they will get the support to do so.

If your goals are not serving to motivate improvement, you may need to revisit the process or the goals and targets.

A range of goals

Sometimes goals and targets are restricted to curriculum content, but it is really important to have goals related to social-emotional and cultural learning as well.

  • These are important in their own right and can lead to deeper curriculum learning.
  • It is important to be ambitious in these areas because things can change around really quickly with the right focus and strategies to address them.

Goals and targets can be defined in many different ways, but usually:

  • goals have broad aims, for example, improve student engagement and achievement in x
  • targets are more specific and time bound, for example, move every student at least two sub-levels in x, by x time, with students below level x moving three sub-levels.

You can use the acronym SMART as a reminder: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.

Some suggestions and cautions

  • Involve learners in setting both personal and school-wide goals and targets.
  • Make your goals and targets about what everyone hopes for the learners – not about what the adults will be doing, for example, improving practice. Leave that to later when you have developed and tested your hunches.
  • Measure what you treasure; don’t just treasure what you can easily measure.
  • Be very aware of possible perverse effects. For example, goals and targets that focus on a percentage of students achieving a particular level (for example, 85% of students reaching level x) can be inequitable and unfair to those who will struggle to achieve the level and to those who can achieve it easily. Shifting the whole profile with an emphasis on acceleration for those not doing so well is much fairer on everyone.

View Mt Roskill Primary School students talking about their learning goals. 

Mt Roskill Primary School students - UACEL on Vimeo

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