Teaching Tips: Clarifying Your Goals

Teaching Tips: Clarifying Your Goals

When I begin to develop a new knitting class (or any class, for that matter), I always start with thinking about what exact skills I want students to be able to accomplish when they leave the class.  For instance, when I teach my Knitting 101 class in which students make a simple mug rug, my goals are for students to be able to:

  • Identify basic pattern information.
  • Cast on and bind off.
  • Make knit and purl stitches.
  • Move between knit and purl stitches in a single row.
  • Identify some of the mistakes in their work.

I have a particular way of thinking about how to write those skill statements.  I always start off with a verb that I can mentally assess as I work through the class.  Something that I can actually see happening– identify, make, move between, cast on, etc.  I use verbs that describe what my students can do by the end of the class, not what I’m doing.  And I try to be specific about what I’m expecting, for instance “in a single row” or “some of the mistakes.”

Once I’m clear on what the students need to accomplish, then I plan how I can help them be able to do those things.  For instance, in Knitting 101, my first goal is for students to be able to identify the parts of a pattern before they even start knitting because after they take this class, they are likely to look for a pattern to make that’s more exciting than a mug rug.  So after I’ve explained the basic information found at the front of a pattern, I give each student a different pattern to look at, and ask them to find the materials, gauge, key, etc.

I find that if I put my attention on what the students should be doing during class, that my classes are more active and that they tend to be more focused.  Next time you are planning a class, start with thinking about what specific skills or knowledge you want the students to leave with and use those to plan what demos to use, what stories to tell, and what exercises students should complete.

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