High Impact Takeaways and Learning Targets: An Alternative to Grades

Grades have long been the primary measure of student achievement; however, there is countless amounts of research proving the ineffectiveness of grades. In a process-based class where students are engaged in project-based learning, grading is particularly challenging and does not have much of a use. When using project-based learning (PBL), educators are embracing a shift toward focusing on high impact takeaways and learning targets instead of grades.

This approach emphasizes the acquisition of specific skills, knowledge, and competencies, allowing students to develop a deeper understanding of the subject matter and fostering a more meaningful learning experience. This article explores the concept of high impact takeaways and learning targets and how they replace grades in a PBL unit.

High impact takeaways are the essential skills, knowledge, and understandings that students should gain from a PBL unit. These takeaways go beyond rote memorization of facts and focus on the application of information, critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, and communication skills. High impact takeaways provide a clear vision of what students should achieve through the project.

Learning targets break down high impact takeaways into specific, measurable, and achievable goals. They outline the skills and knowledge that students need to acquire and demonstrate during the PBL unit. Learning targets help students understand what is expected of them and provide a roadmap for their learning journey. By setting clear and manageable targets, students can track their progress, self-assess their growth, and identify areas where they need further development.

High impact takeaways and learning targets enable personalized learning experiences in PBL. With a clear understanding of the intended outcomes, students can customize their approach to the project based on their interests, strengths, and areas for growth. Each student gets to choose their own learning targets, so they can develop the strategies and choose the resources that best suit their learning style and leverage their unique talents to contribute meaningfully to the project. 

In a high impact takeaways and learning targets framework, formative assessment takes center stage. Teachers continuously assess student progress through ongoing feedback, observations, and reflections without assigning grades throughout the process. They provide timely guidance and support to help students meet the learning targets and refine their understanding. Feedback focuses on specific areas of growth, provides actionable steps for improvement, and encourages self-reflection.

Instead of relying on traditional tests and exams, PBL units utilizing high impact takeaways and learning targets encourage students to demonstrate their learning in authentic ways. Students showcase their skills and knowledge through presentations, projects, portfolios, exhibitions, debates, or performances. These real-world demonstrations provide a more accurate representation of students' abilities and allow for creativity, critical thinking, and meaningful application of learning.

Self-assessment and reflection play a crucial role in a high impact takeaways and learning targets framework. Students are encouraged to assess their own progress, identify strengths and areas for improvement, and set personal goals. Throughout the learning process students identify and explain the steps they have taken to achieve there learning goals and detail how that gets them to understand the unit's high impact takeaways.

High impact takeaways and learning targets provide a powerful alternative to grades in project-based learning. By focusing on the acquisition of essential skills and knowledge, personalized learning experiences, formative assessment, authentic demonstrations of learning, and student-centered learning, educators can foster a more engaging and meaningful educational journey for students. Embrace the power of high impact takeaways and learning targets to unlock the full potential of project-based learning today.

Main post image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians via Pixabay

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