Effective learning objectives by using reflection activities

November 3, 2021


When was the last time your students experienced a success experience in your lesson? A moment when they realised: wow, I have learned something new! This can easily be achieved by combining learning objectives with simple reflection activities!

Estimated time to read this article: 5 minutes

When preparing a lesson I always follow a series of steps and start with the beginning in mind. I know, it should be ‘the end in mind’, but I think it is also important to already position the goals at beginning of the lesson.

In my opinion learning objectives are very important in a CLIL lesson, but they should be effective and meaningful to students.

In other words: they should feel like they can achieve them and have experienced that a couple of times before.

Can and know statements

Whenever I train teachers and ask them for the learning objectives of that lesson, I ask them to phrase it in ‘can’ or ‘know’ statements.

But I no longer do that.

The reason is simple: it is very easy to cheat!

If you say “You can solve this equation” or “You know how to solve this question”, you are basically saying the same thing..

The same applies to “You know the steps to solve an equation” or “You can write down the steps to solve an equation”.

So from now on, I suggest writing learning objectives in “Can” statements only.

It is also a more active statement than just ‘know’, which is more passive anyway.

Key Take Away

Starting your learning objective with "At the end of this lesson you can..." makes them both practical and action-orientated

Make language salient

As I said, I don’t think learning objectives themselves are very useful if the students do not feel like they mean anything.

You have to make sure students actually know what the learning objectives are about.

This can be done quite simply by asking: “Does everyone understand the learning objectives?”

But I hope you agree with me this might not be the most effective way of doing this.

A more effective way might be to ask a random student to rephrase a learning objective in his or her own words

Or explain a specific, tricky word in one of the learning objectives in their own words.

That way you can check if the learning objectives indeed make sense or if you need to clarify them first.

Obviously there might be things in the objectives they do not know yet, but then you can say: You will learn that in this lesson!

Key Take Away

Make language salient by checking if students understand the language used in learning objectives of that lesson.

Three reflection activities

To improve motivation for learning, planning for success moments is essential.

A great way to do this is to take a couple of minutes at the end of the lesson to have a look at the learning objectives and check if they were actually achieved.

Here are a couple of easy ways to do just that:

1. On a scale of …

Ask your students to rate their level of understanding of the new topic at the end of the lesson.

You can simply ask “On a scale of 1 to 10, how well do you personally feel you now understand the things we discussed today?”

In my experience students  are quite honest and this gives you important information, especially if certain students never raise their hands.

2. Lesson recap

Defining your lesson objectives in ‘can’ statements makes them not just more active, but also allow for an easy check at the end of the lesson.

For example: if you learning objective is “you can write down the steps to solve a linear equation”, you can now ask students to actually do that. To prove they have achieved the learning objective.

3. Describe in your own words

If you introduced new phrases in your lesson (and I think you often do), you can ask students to describe these new phrases in their own words.

And to make the language salient you can ask them to do this within a word limit.

For example: “Describe “linear equation” in 15 words or less”.

Key Take Away

It only takes a couple of minutes to effectively reflect upon learning objectives, but this can be very rewarding for students!


By combining ‘active’ learning objectives and effective reflection activities, you can make students feel really good about themselves

Simply because they have achieved something they did not know they could at the end of the lesson.

And now I challenge you:

Can you write down one of your learning objectives in a ‘At the end of this lesson you can’’ – style?

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